Roger Goodell thinks officials are ‘extraordinary,’ and he has a point (Shutdown Corner)

The NFL has had some great stories this year. The Carolina Panthers’ pursuit of perfection, Tom Brady’s greatness, Panthers cornerback Josh Norman’s emergence as a star, this whole Brock Osweiler thing with the Denver Broncos, 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck’s great relief job, and … officiating.  A lot about officiating. Every week, it seems, something about the officiating. The NFL’s best game, by far, in the first half was the Denver Broncos’ overtime win over the New England Patriots. And we’ve spent all week talking about whether or not the Patriots got hosed by the officials . And in some ways that will always happen, because fans will complain when a lot of either-or calls go against their team. But the latest storm off of the Patriots’ first loss comes on the heels of a ton of controversial calls this season . Some of them have been really inexcusable, with mistakes on simple procedural issues. Those errors are a lot different than whether a back judge decides to call a 50-50 pass interference. [ Yahoo Daily Fantasy: $10 could win you $50K in our $350K contest for Week 13 ] Through all of this, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thinks the officials are great. “Our officials do an extraordinary job,” Goodell said, according to the transcript of his press conference from this week’s league meetings . “What we see now is that through technology we see things we could never see before, but what it does is it validates the quality of our officiating. We all recognize that officials are going to make mistakes. What we need to do is try to avoid those mistakes as much as possible, train them differently, improve the quality of the officiating and use technology to help them whenever a mistake does occur.” That’s what Goodell has to say (and he isn’t wrong, which we’ll get to in a moment) but he also mentioned that time was spent at this week’s league meeting discussing what can be done to improve the officiating. Which is an indication the league understands it has not been a good year for the stripes. “I mentioned to them – when we talk about integrity of the game, that’s one thing that truly affects the integrity of the game,” Goodell said. “We strive for perfection, we strive for consistency. We’re not going to always get that, but we’re always going to continue to try to get that. And I mentioned to the ownership today that our commitment is to do everything reasonable to make sure that we improve officiating.” Full-time officials have often been proposed as a fix, and Goodell said he ” thought we had negotiated those rights” in the last work stoppage, but the officials’ union has opposed it. There would be obstacles other than union opposition, such as money and the fact that a lot of current officials have full-time jobs they presumably wouldn’t quit to be officials all year round. Here’s the truth, and it’s not easy to hear: The officiating is probably never going to get a whole lot better. And, given the challenges, it’s not as bad as is often said. Have you ever been close up to an NFL game? It moves at an impossible speed. It’s amazing the officials get as much right as they do. It is virtually impossible to catch everything, because they’re not sitting on their couch with the benefit of instant replay on 60-inch HDTVs. And scrutiny is hotter than ever, because anyone can take a screen shot of an arm across a defender’s body and tweet out how a holding call was missed. Sometimes it even ends up as a Sports Illustrated cover. That doesn’t excuse some of the things that have been missed. Offensive linemen reporting as eligible should never be simply missed, I’m still not sure how an illegal batting penalty on the Seattle Seahawks wasn’t called in a crushing Detroit Lions loss, and other problems like clock issues can’t happen. And the NFL is right to look at every possible way to improve the officiating. But don’t forget how incredibly awful the replacement officials were in 2012. And it’s not like college football has better officiating. Given the challenges, the NFL does a pretty good job identifying its best officials and as a whole, they do as good of a job as is humanly possible. It’s easy to complain about them, and everybody including the NFL knows the officials aren’t having a good season, but there’s no magical system that fixes it all. Full-time officials are still going to make “bad” decisions on pass interference calls that are made in a split second between a couple of players who run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. We saw a few years ago what truly bad officiating looks like. This isn’t bad, comparatively speaking. It could be much, much worse. The NFL game is always going to move at the speed of light, and if anything it will get even faster. Officials are still going to miss things — and probably more accurately, you’re not going to agree with the calls they make against your favorite team. Extraordinary? Maybe not this season. But as a whole, there’s no simple answer that will make NFL officiating too much better than it is. – – – – – – – Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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