Flag Or No Flag? NFL Officials Can’t Get It Right This Season

  • In the last 20 years, only 37% of all calls made on the field have been reversed after review.
  • Bad calling is plaguing the NFL this season and not just messing with game statistics but sports betting outcomes.
  • The league stands behind their officials as they are given weekly evaluations for their competency.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - “Come on, Ref!” an all too familiar thought by every NFL fan watching a game this season and wondering what exactly the officials saw on the field to make those calls. Even more frustrating is the instant replay where viewers can clearly see over and over again that either a flag should’ve been thrown or that the referee was completely off the mark when they threw it. And it’s a rare occurrence to see calls on the field be taken back even after review.

Does the NFL not see what’s happening? According to the league, they evaluate their referees on a weekly basis to make sure they are up for the task and that all calls were made correctly. The league employs 121 referees come time for the regulation season. This sudden change in the way games are being called has led thepublic to question the competence of these officials and whether or not there are certain criteria that they have to meet in order to maintain their jobs.

Despite popular belief, there are no specific things that referees must do in order to get a boost in their salaries or job security. Every official banks a little over $200,000 a year for the season which also includes a very good 401(k) with an extra $18,000 deposit made annually. The average referee are males in their fifties. Are bad calls a side effect of middle age or just something that keeps happening?

The NFL’s Officiating Department says that of the 155 plays made during your average game, over 95% of all calls made by the officials are correct. That means that 5% are wrong, at least according to their reports. That gives about eight plays per game that are open for bad calling. This season there seems to be that many on average where the violation was as clear as day and nothing happened. Or a facemask was called and the player was nowhere near doing that to his opponent.

Due to the low average of calls being reversed, coaches have been hesitant to challenge and throw their own flags but they should. Something needs to be done. For as much money as the referees are being paid when compared to other sports, they should be making better decisions out there, as they are the eyes on the field.

"Officials do not get to a game site on Saturday, have a nice dinner and then wake up and work the game," said Alberto Riveron, senior vice president of officiating. "If you don't prepare 30 to 35 hours a week for those three hours on Sunday, then you cannot do your job effectively and you will not survive in the National Football League."

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So, if they are doing their jobs correctly, they are supposed to spend an average of forty hours a week going over game tapes of the two teams they will be seeing in their next game assignment. There’s no way to actually know if they are actually doing this as it’s on their own time. But, if they are studying both teams before entering the stadium themselves, does that leave them open for bias based on what they’ve reviewed prior to the match?

The Kansas City Chiefs will be facing the Denver Broncos for Thursday night football and the Chiefs were just one of the latest teams to experience terrible refereeing. Tight end for the Chiefs, Travis Kelce, was visibly thrown on the ground by a player from the Houston Texans. At first, they called pass interference, only to give the play further review and retract the call.

“After discussion, the contact that was potentially a hold was while the ball was in the air. It is not pass interference because it was not on the receiver that caught the ball,” said referee Shawn Hochuli.

Kansas City would end up losing to the Texans 31-24. A call that might’ve been a chance at a touchdown that could’ve at least tied the game was taken back and the Chiefs lost. These terrible calls by referees are causing problems with sports bettors. Wagers that should have been won are being lost due to the inability to make the right decisions on the field. This could affect the market at US sportsbooks in the days to come as some gamblers may not want to risk putting money down on games that are essentially in the hands of the officials rather than the odds and performance of a team.

Denver (+150) will be coming in as 3.5-point underdogs tonight while the Chiefs (-170) are the favorite among sportsbooks. The game total is set at 48.5 points. The matchup will be held at Sports Authority Field in Denver beginning at 8:20 p.m. EST and will be televised on the FOX network. Fans everywhere are hoping that the officials have prepped for the game and don’t repeat their mistakes against Kansas City for the second game in a row, otherwise plenty of people will now chant what should now be the NFL’s official slogan again tonight, “Come on, Ref!”.