The NFL and its on-field officials came to an agreement last night that will keep them on the field for the next eight years. For most people, it's just a matter of getting the officials on the field. For those that are interested, here are some of the terms of their agreement:
- Eight-year term covering the 2012-2019 seasons.
- The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
- Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
- Apart from their benefit package, the game officials' compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
- Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
- The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.
I think the two most pertinent elements of this from the fan's standpoint is the option to hire officials full-time, and the option to retain what amounts to a practice squad of officials. I do think there has always been room for improving the existing pool of officials, and these provide specific opportunities to do so.
Beyond that, I now find myself wondering what the return of the officials means for the 49ers, and really all NFL teams. The refs will be back in action for Thursday Night Football and this weekend's slate of Week 4 games. For all teams, there will likely be an adjustment period. After Week 1, teams were aware of areas they could push the limits with the rules, and some of those limits will be removed. The 49ers Week 1 contest against the Packers was incredibly physical. Sometimes phantom pass interference calls were made, while other times you could more or less mug the wide receiver throughout the play.
The most basic area of improvement will hopefully be in the consistency of calls. Regular NFL refs will make mistakes and blow calls. There is too much human element for their not to be blown calls. However, NFL refs know the rules and will be able to implement with a fairly even-handed approach. There are some new rules this year, but the vast majority of the rulebook remains the same. Maybe this means Jim Harbaugh won't be able to talk officials into two free challenges, but at least that will apply to both sides of a matchup.
Do you see any particular ways this helps or hurts teams beyond some of the obvious stuff I mentioned above?