The National Football League long has resisted the notion of full-time officials, but that position seems to be softening some based on comments made recently by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Speaking to a group of about 75 fans before the AFC Division Round Playoff Game between Baltimore and Houston, and in response to a question about consistency in officiating, Goodell revealed a proposal that would bring a group of officials to the league offices in New York to help review game films and evaluate the calls. Those full-time officials then would be spread out among the crews at games.
"Consistency is exactly what every club wants, and I think every fan wants. You want consistency in the way rules are applied," Goodell said. "We are contemplating this offseason taking some of those officials from the field who are now part time – they have other jobs – and making a certain number of them, let's say 10, full-time."
This idea of some full-time officials is in the preliminary stages, and there will have to be some obvious issues worked out. Even with details still to be worked out, Steelers President Art Rooney II said he's intrigued by the idea.
"I think it might be a good idea. I don't know the details yet," said Rooney about Goodell's plan to add some full-time officials. "This is a harder game to officiate today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. There are a lot more rules that have to be interpreted on the spot out there on the field. I think by and large the officials do a great job. The thing I think we strive for as a league is to have consistency in the way the game is officiated."
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson said there had been concerns that it would be too expensive to make any officials year-round employees in a sport where there is only. But Anderson also said , he said, that's "not a barrier anymore. ... New people on the scene, including myself, are of the opinion that those types of impediments can be overcome under the right circumstances."
The league's collective bargaining agreement with its officials is set to expire during this offseason, and that will have to be figured into any arrangement reached to make some of them full-time.
"That's an idea we've been thinking about for some time," Anderson said about officials being full-time. "There's a lot of potential positives in terms of upgrading the communication and communicating points of emphasis ... particularly with regard to the critical calls."
And Rooney thinks enough of the idea to be in favor of further exploration.
"With some of the new rules, and the rules changing every year, it is a tougher game to officiate, and I think we're asking a lot of our officials," said Rooney. "This might be a step in the right direction in terms of the way the games are officiated."