NFL officiating has had quite the shakeup in 2018 with the many retirements of some longtime officials. Love him or hate him, official Ed Hochuli is calling it quits along with Gene Steratore, Terry McAulay, Jeff Triplette.
Pro Football reports, there are six other names to no longer done the zebra shirts on Sundays: Laird Hayes (side judge), Jon Lucivansky (field judge), Ron Marinucci (line judge), Jim Howey (line judge), Ed Walker (down judge), and Buddy Horton (field judge). The NFL is only filling seven of these 10 job openings.
Well, that’s strange. But forget the turnover, more concerning is new referees.
NFL officiating has always been a topic of discussion, mostly because of the NFL’s insistence of being behind the times in issues of replay (a good example is not reviewing fighting to see who all was involved and eject accordingly), but also the perceived lack of accountability for some rather egregious calls. The San Francisco 49ers came under some terrible officiating crews over the years, and I’m still a bit salty on the phantom pass interference call Trent Taylor received to end the first Los Angeles Rams game in 2017. The officiating at times can be inconsistent and it gets maddening when the above seeps in to ruin games.
And that’s why this is a bit concerning. Not only that the NFL is not filling the three remaining spots, but also that we’re going to get some new judges. I doubt that they will be near as awful as the replacement refs from 2012, but I’m also venturing a guess that much like the players they are officiating, there’s only so much you can learn until you get into an actual NFL game and are calling it. The game is significantly faster, which is partly why the replacement refs were so laughably bad. I’m curious just how long it’s going to take these new officials to get up to speed, and what teams will suffer as they get there.
We won’t get the officiating crews for 49ers games in 2018 for some time, but I’m definitely going to be worried if we get some of the rookies calling their games. Things are hard enough to win in the NFL without terrible calls. Hopefully these guys can get up to speed quick.
As for the lack of vacancies to replace the departures, I can only assume that it’s the NFL trying to save any pennies that it can. The 2012 officiating controversy stemmed from officials wanting benefits and some wanting full time jobs as NFL referees. After the replacement refs, the NFL was backed in a corner to oblige after numerous awful calls. Now that full time officials are being added in, the NFL is probably trying to follow a budget and doesn’t see a need to include the original number of officials on payroll.
The current collective bargaining agreement with the officials is up in 2020. We have two years to see if there’s another lockout.