NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the officiating in the league has never been better.
Goodell made the assertion at his annual news conference in Phoenix ahead of Super Bowl LVII — his state of the NFL address.
Goodell touched on several other flashpoints — including minority hiring, player health and safety, the Washington Commanders investigation and potential sale, future plans to flex “Thursday Night Football” and when the site of Super Bowl LX will be announced.
On the topic of officiating, Goodell said mistakes are unavoidable but threw his full support behind the crews.
“I don’t think it’s ever been better in the league,” Goodell said. “There are over 42,000 plays in a season. Multiple infractions could occur on any play. Take that out or extrapolate that. That’s hundreds if not millions of potential fouls. And our officials do an extraordinary job of getting those. Are there mistakes in the context of that? Yes, they are not perfect and officiating never will be.”
His comments come less than two weeks since controversial calls in both championship games.
“We may not agree with every TV announcer or officiating expert, but we think our officials are doing a great job,” Goodell said.
Reacting to recent comments from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who said the officials’ inconsistency was due to several referees leaving for network TV roles, Goodell said that wasn’t a factor.
“Are we losing people from the field to the booth? There are some that never even officiated on the NFL field, and so we didn’t lose anyone,” Goodell said. “We may have lost them from our office, but we didn’t lose them from officiating on the field. Others are taking on that responsibility at the end of their careers. So, I do not think that’s a factor at all. Zero.”
Goodell touched on several other topics Wednesday:
Minority hirings: Goodell credited the recently implemented coach and front office accelerator program with helping to introduce teams to a more diverse candidate pool. The commissioner told reporters that the program introduced the Tennessee Titans to their new general manager, Ran Carthon, in December.
Carthon, who is Black, is one of two minority GM or head coach candidates hired so far during this year’s cycle, along with DeMeco Ryans, who was named head coach of the Houston Texans last month.
“We’re gonna continue (the accelerator program),” Goodell said. “Our commitment’s strong to that. But that’s just one. We had a number of other programs that we’ve put in that I think are going to produce long-term results.
“Now we all want short-term results, but it’s important to have it be sustainable for the future, and we believe diversity makes us stronger. It’s about attracting the best talent and giving them the best opportunity to be successful. To me, that’s at the core of what we do. We want the changes to be really fundamental and sound and sustainable.”
Health and safety: Goodell addressed the modified concussion protocols that the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to after an investigation determined that the previous protocols did not lead to the intended result with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
“Any time we can change the protocols to make it safer for our players, we’re gonna do that,” Goodell said. “What we changed in October is something that we thought would give us a better opportunity to treat those conditions more conservatively. … I think that’s also why concussions went up this year because we had a broader definition, a more conservative definition. We had an increase of 17 percent of evaluations. So if you have more evaluations, you’re going to have more concussions.”
The commissioner added that the next move in concussion prevention will be improvements to the helmets.
Washington Commanders investigation/potential sale: On the topic of Mary Jo White’s investigation into misconduct by the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, Goodell said there’s no timeline in place for White to conclude her investigation and report her findings to the NFL.
“There is no timeline given to Mary Jo White,” Goodell said. “She is authorized to work independently. There is no timeline for her to come to any conclusions.”
As for the potential sale of the team, Goodell said the process of finding a buyer is underway but the league won’t be involved until the other owners vote whether to approve a deal.
“The Commanders are under a process. That’s their process. Ultimately, if they reach a conclusion and have someone joining the ownership group or buying the team, that’s something the ownership will look at.”
Site of Super Bowl LX: The Super Bowl locations for the next two seasons are set, with Las Vegas hosting Super Bowl LVII and New Orleans welcoming Super Bowl LIX to town in 2025.
As for the 60th (LX) and 61st (LXI) Super Bowls, Goodell said the selection for LX in 2026 will be made later this year. LXI’s location in 2027 could also be determined in 2023.
“Thursday Night Football” flex?: With flexible scheduling for “Monday Night Football” being implemented this year for December games, Goodell hinted that the league’s schedule could include flex games for “Thursday Night Football” in the future.
“This is the first year of our new deals which will have flexible scheduling on Monday night,” he said. “So we’ll have flexible scheduling on Sundays and Mondays, it wouldn’t at all surprise me at some point that we have it on Thursdays, at some stage. Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’ll be on our horizon.”
–Field Level Media