Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sports

A solution for awful NFL officiating? Simplify the rules

RECOMMENDED READING


Officiating gaffes continue to be a story line of the 2015 NFL season, and the problem is not just human error.

Football rulebooks are too complicated and too freighted with zany distinctions: In high school, players must wear shoes, but socks are optional, while in the pros, players must wear socks but don't need to wear shoes.

And was it a catch or not a catch? In the offseason, the league said, "The language pertaining to a catch was clarified." The clarification is 158 words and incomprehensible to a Supreme Court clerk.

Rulebook simplification would improve officiating. As for replay review, how about making it blind? If the reviewing official did not know what call was made on the field, he or she wouldn't have observer bias.

The NFL's rulebook is 79 pages single spaced. The rulebook used in college, and in high school play in Massachusetts and Texas, is 73 pages single spaced. The National Federation of High Schools rulebook employed in all other states drones on for 112 pages.

No official could possibly remember everything in any of these documents. When zebras botched the call at the end of the Detroit-Seattle contest on Monday Night Football, no one on the officiating crew knew how to enforce the rule regarding deliberate batting of a loose ball. Excessively complicated football rules reflect the over-lawyering of contemporary life.

Football happens fast — "bang-bang" is the apt description. College action is faster than high school play, while at the NFL level, every player was the fastest guy on his college team. High-speed collisions mean that errors of judgment are inevitable; trying to keep all the rules in your head makes the situation worse. Simplifying the rulebooks would allow officials to concentrate on judgment.

Rules variations among the high school, college and pro levels add more layers of confusion. Pass interference is enforced differently in the NCAA from in the NFL. Some flags that are automatic first downs in the pros are not automatic first downs in college. Deliberate batting of a loose ball? Always illegal in high school, OK in the pros if the ball is batted toward the sidelines. But not if batted parallel to the sidelines!

People who become NFL officials usually begin at the high school or college levels — the celeb referee Ed Hochuli started by working Pop Warner games. If rules were standardized, zebras would need only to keep one set of rules in their heads, and would get more reps enforcing the unitary standards.

Maybe the solution to NFL yellow-flag woes would be full-time officials. The roughly $25 million the NFL now spends annually on officials is petty cash to a $12 billion organization.

Now the blind review idea. The basic premise of NFL review is that the call on the field should be overturned only if the replay official is certain the call was wrong.

Technology has made possible a shift of challenges to the NFL office in New York; the replay official no longer attends the game. Since the replay official now sits in an office, reviews would be more credible if the reviewer did not know the call on the field. New York Times

Comments
NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Patriots remain No. 1, Eagles rise to No. 2

NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: Patriots remain No. 1, Eagles rise to No. 2

What follows below is a ranking of all 32 NFL teams. To build this list, we consulted five objective measures of team strength: Pro Football Reference’s Simple Rating System, Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average ratings...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Armwood, Miami Central will have strongest USF-UCF representation

Armwood, Miami Central will have strongest USF-UCF representation

Armwood and Miami Central will have the strongest roster representation of any state high school when No. 13 UCF hosts No. 22 USF on Friday.The Hawks and Rockets both will boast five alumni (including walk-ons) among the two teams. Surprisingly, Sick...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Thursday is a day of tradition.Macy’s Day Parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the brilliant columnis...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Happy Thanksgiving! It's already week 12 of the NFL season, and the football feast is set to begin. It all starts at at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, when the Lions try to win their fifth straight Thanksgiving Day game against a Minnesota team out to bec...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Unsung heroes on the remaining playoff teams

Unsung heroes on the remaining playoff teams

In the spirit of the holiday, we asked our six remaining high school football playoff teams who they're most thankful for this postseason.Beth Dare, Cambridge ChristianThere is no bigger cheerleader for Cambridge Christian football than Beth, wife of...
Updated: 2 hours ago
University of Tampa volleyball finds playoff form in time

University of Tampa volleyball finds playoff form in time

TAMPA — Earning an NCAA Tournament bid is usually not cause for celebration with the University of Tampa volleyball program. It has become routine.But after hitting the abyss of a 3-10 record, after players felt their confidence was shot, after coach...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Admiral Farragut’s John Waller commits to USF

Admiral Farragut’s John Waller commits to USF

Admiral Farragut DT John Waller announced Wednesday via Twitter he intends to sign with USF.A three-star prospect per 247Sports, he becomes the Bulls' 23rd non-binding commitment from the Class of 2018, and second from Admiral Farragut. WR Zion Rolan...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot: What you need to know

Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot: What you need to know

Just like the several types of dishes you’ll see at Thanksgiving, you can run any type of race before you stuff your face. The Tampa Bay Times’ annual Turkey Trot offers a race for nearly every distance, from a one-mile run/walk to a 10k race. • Clea...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports doctor pleads guilty to sex charges that involved Olympic gymnasts

Sports doctor pleads guilty to sex charges that involved Olympic gymnasts

LANSING, Mich. —A former doctor accused of molesting girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges of sexual assault and will face at least 25 years in prison. Larry Nassar, 54, admi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Examining the Bucs’ Hall of Fame semifinalists

Cannon Fodder podcast: Examining the Bucs’ Hall of Fame semifinalists

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman takes a closer look at the three former Bucs who are semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.He also looks at the constant churn on the Bucs’ practice squad and why Julio Jones’ stats have dropped off this season,...
Updated: 3 hours ago