Roger Goodell Says He Doesn’t Believe Officiating In The NFL Has ‘Ever Been Better’

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PHOENIX — NFL officiating was often criticized by loud and prominent voices from within and outside the league this season, but despite that critique commissioner Roger Goodell believes game officials are doing an awesome job.

“I think for us, when you look at officiating, I don’t think it’s ever been better in the league,” Goodell said Wednesday at his annual state of the league press conference.

“There are over 42,000 plays in a season. Multiple infractions could occur on any play. Take that average and extrapolate that. That’s hundreds, if not millions of potential fouls. And our officials do an extraordinary job of getting those.”

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 08: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on February 08, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Peter Casey/Getty Images)

Roger Goodell Takes On Criticism Of Officials

Goodell didn’t mention this in passing. He offered a full-throated endorsement of the job NFL officials did this season without apology.

“We may not agree with every TV announcer or officiating expert, but we think our officials are doing a great job,” he said.

Goodell didn’t even suggest officiating has any sort of issue in his overall view of the league.

“I would say we always start with the game,” Goodell said. “The game is really the most important thing for us. And I would say the quality of the game has never been better.

“We’re so excited about the competition. I think 50 percent of our division winners and 50 percent of our playoff teams were new teams this year. The young players coming in are extraordinary, particularly at the quarterback position. I think that has an incredible strength to our future, ultimately.

“And when you look at the competition, you look at our games this year, you saw so many of them how teams came back from deficits they never came back from before. You can never turn a game off, which is fun for me and great for our fans.”

This obviously flies in the face of criticisms and situations that have resonated throughout the league.

Multiple Prominent Voices Of Criticism

In October, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel was so upset with the inconsistency in which game officials called roughing the passer penalties, he replied to all recipients on the league’s officiating video, which the league sends coaches and general managers every week.

“I appreciate the time and energy that goes into these videos,” Vrabel said, “but I suggest we devote every minute of our officiating departments’ time ensuring our officiating crews are as well trained in the clarifications we worked to create in the off season and that each crew is as consistent as possible. Thank you.”

Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, multiple times over the past few seasons been critical of the officiating. It didn’t stop this year.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently said the NFL’s top officials left for jobs in the broadcast booth. That, the QB said, left something of a quality drain among the league crews.

Terry McAulay (NBC/Prime Video), Gene Steratore (CBS) and John Parry (ESPN) are among the key referees to join networks. Rodgers believes higher salaries is the reason.

And, of course, fans in Cincinnati as well as Bengals coach Zac Taylor, were incensed during the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs basically got two opportunities on a key third-down situation in that game.

Referee Ron Tolbert ruled the first play should be nullified because of a timekeeping mistake on the preceding second-down play.

So an incomplete pass was wiped out. And the Chiefs were awarded another third-down play.

Paul Kuharsky: We Need To Hear From NFL Officials, Including A Sky Judge
NEW ORLEANS, LA – OCTOBER 09: Side judge Boris Cheek (41), down judge Sarah Thomas (53), line judge Daniel Gallagher (85), and referee Brad Allen (122) chat during a timeout during the football game between the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on October 9, 2022 in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Kansas City Third Down Play

Goodell took umbrage with these examples of what seem to be serious officiating issues.

“I would disagree with several of the points you’re making,” he said. “Yes, we listen to all the voices. Let’s just start with that point. But we like to go to the facts ultimately. So just to take your point of are we losing people from the field to the booth, there are some that never even officiated on the NFL field.

“We may have lost them from our office but we didn’t lose them from the field. Others are taking on that responsibility at the end of their career. I do not think that’s a factor at all, zero.”

Goodell did admit there are mistakes. But with the integrity of the game extremely important, he wasn’t about to throw the league’s officiating under the bus.

“They are not perfect and officiating never will be,” Goodell said of game officials. “But we’ve also had obviously replay and other aspects to address those issues to make sure they’re not something we can’t address on the field.

“In addition, I think we all have to realize through the quality of what we see on our broadcasts you’ve never been able to see the kind of things you can see today. And you see it in super slow-mo. You see it where you can actually stop it. Sometimes that distorts a call potentially. But the reality is our officials are held to an incredibly high standard and I think they meet it. Will we try to get better? You betcha.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero


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