Referees Are Ruining Football...What Can Be Done to End The Madness?

Caleb M.@MouthoftheQuackAnalyst IFebruary 22, 2010

For the love of football, can we please get rid of referees?

I just have to get this off my chest...I mean really, they just plain out ruin football. Look up who's officiating the games and based off of that you can decide who will win.

Sure, die hard football fans know Ed Hochuli and Mike Carry...those are about the only two I can even stand to listen to.

There's so many unfair plays, biased judgement, and flat-out ridiculous calling that I just can't take it anymore. This goes for all sports really, not just football. 

But this isn't just a hate, this is a "something has to be done" letter. With football in particular, officials and referees are ruining the sport.

And seriously, there has to be an answer! But in order to find that answer, we must first isolate the main problems with referees today.


The number of referees on the playing field

There are seven—yes, seven—officials on a football field at one time. That's just plain ridiculous. (You can read all their roles here .) More officials=more penalties.

And most of those penalties are "make-up calls", or completely out of the blue penalties that will be shortly followed by a make-up call.

My Suggestions:  Eliminate the line judge. The head linesman doesn't need an "assistant." Make the referee the same thing as the umpire. The umpire doesn't do much, and his responsibilities could easily be handled by the referee.


The penalties themselves are flawed 

There are over 100 penalties that can be called in both the NFL and college football combined, most of which are actually just twisted versions of other penalties. And half of these penalties are so generic, no wonder the referees screw it all up!

Listen to some of these: Illegal shift', 'illegal motion', 'illegal move'...aren't these all the same thing?

'Failure to pause at least one second after shift or huddle' is another one that's just well as 'helping the runner', and 'any player who removes his helmet after a play while on the field'. Helping the runner, are we serious?

If you look at the NFL rule index , you'll find repeated rules, rules that are obviously ignored, and rules that just plain don't make sense.

The rules I find most abused, or that get called way too much are roughing the passer and illegal contact.

Roughing the passer is called way too often by officials in both the pros and in college. If a defender flat out takes down the quarterback after he throws the ball, then most definitely, make the call.

All too often though, players are getting called on this when they are blocked into the quarterback, fall unintentionally into the quarterback, or hit him after starting to fall before the ball was thrown.

Illegal contact calls bring back huge touchdowns, fourth-down conversions, and change the game constantly. I mean, define illegal contact? The rule is so generic that it's no wonder referees botch the call.

My suggestions: Reduce the amount of rules. Let the players play for goodness sake! By combining some repetitive rules and flat out eliminating others, the world of football would be a much happier place. Similarly, make the rules more descriptive. Leave no question as to what the rule actually means.


The referees are "too involved" in the game

Basically what I mean is that they get involved in the game too much. There's way too many penalties, too many types of "fouls" a player can commit, and all too often this leads to bad calls.

Essentially, the referees decide who wins the game. Take the NFC Conference Championship this past season, between Minnesota and New Orleans, for example. I think the Vikings should have won.

In the second half alone I counted (against the Vikings) two bad pass interference calls, one bad roughing the passer call, and there were probably more. These calls may have decided the game.

What if the "Who Dat" nation should have gone home crying? What if Brett Favre's interception really didn't decide the game? Is New Orleans really the better team? We'll never know...and it's thanks to the terrible referees.

And did you know 1/6 of the penalties called during an average NFL game get called back? When it's all added up, that's a lot of wasted time. I mean seriously, that means for every 100 yellow flags thrown, 17 will be admittedly for no good.

My suggestions:   Similarly to the first issue, reduce the amount of officials. And similarly to the second issue, reduce the amount of rules.

How can all my suggestions be accomplished without causing more problems? One simple, outside-the-box idea.


Change the system

Basically, get rid of referees. That doesn't mean let the players run rampant need to change the role of the referee.

Up in "the booth", set aside a panel of three to five people familiar with all of football's rules and penalties.

With TV's all around them, a handbook in front of them, and the game itself below them, let them call the penalties. 

Give officials standing along the sidelines (four in all—one on each sideline, one in each end zone) headsets to connect with the booth. The booth then states where a penalty occurs, and who it's on.

Penalties on the line will be harder to see...and that's where the sideline refs come in. They get the responsibility of calling illegal shifts, false starts, encroachments, etc., just as the line judges do today.

In the event of a penalty, the "head referee" would come out and announce it just like they do today. Four referees is plenty to break up fights, pile-ups, and other such events in which case there's an actually need for on field officials.

It may be a bit crazy to think about at first, but it's very possible to accomplish. Sure, no system will ever be perfect, but this would eliminate most bad calls, and it would reduce the amount of referees on the field.