From competition committee seat, Mike Vrabel pleads for officiating consistency

Titans at Annual MeetingPHOENIX – The competition committee is bringing forth eight of the 17 rule changes that will be discussed at the NFL annual meeting here at the Arizona Biltmore, but one of the committee’s members doesn’t have a strong feeling for any particular change so much as he has a theme.

Mike Vrabel wants to see more officiating consistency.

It’s something he hit on in October of last year after an especially difficult week for NFL officiating. He replied all to a weekly email memo with videos from the officiating department.

"I appreciate the time and energy that goes into these videos,,” he email said per ESPN. “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."

Monday he picked up on that when I asked him what he’s pushed for in competition committee meetings and how he reacted to Roger Goodell saying at the Super Bowl that officiating is the best it’s ever been.

“I was striving to make it more consistent, those were my conversations,” Vrabel said. “The commissioner, it’s his right to evaluate the officials. My goal is just to try to make it more consistent. So that everybody sees it as closely to the same set of eyes as possible. That you see it as a foul, that Turron (Davenport) sees it as a foul, that Ashley (Farrell) sees it, that Shawn Hochuli sees it, that the players see it. Because there are no questions.

The biggest obstacle to that is speed.

“This is a fast game. I stand behind the quarterback in practice and it’s like was that a hold, and if you’re not looking in the right place and the mechanics… DPI, I talk with Turron all the time about this, we don’t necessarily want to reward the defender, but we’ve got to give him some leeway for playing the ball. Like 50-50 balls and we throw it 40 yards downfield should be just that. It shouldn’t be 65 for the offense and 35 for the defense because there is a DPI in there.

“So if we’re teaching them to Find the football, but some of that contact or play the football, we should all see it the same way. (Here Vrabel looks back for an imaginary ball, sticks his hand out to feel for an imaginary receiver.) And if he’s not playing the ball and there’s contact, we should all see it the same way. That it’s a flag. Was he playing the ball? Was there contact? (Then) there should be a flag.”

It's great that Vrabel is fighting for this and we know he's not alone.

Kuharsky megaphoneAt least four officials retired after the 2022 season including often-vilified referee Jerome Boger. Boger should have been pushed out for how bad he was, and letting it be known that he didn't leave voluntarily would have struck a blow for officiating accountability.

That's something we don't get, along with the consistency Vrabel desires.

It's an admirable goal, and it can get incrementally better. But with Goodell offering such a ringing public endorsement of the work of officials, unless there is real pressure behind the scenes, is there real cause to expect it consistency or improvement?

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