Goodell: NFL has considered mixing up officiating crews

MINNEAPOLIS -- During a year in which NFL officiating seems to be under greater scrutiny than ever before, commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday that the league is weighing the idea of mixing and matching crews on a weekly basis.

Speaking at a fan forum before touring the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium for the first time, Goodell said the league is searching for ways to reduce inconsistencies between officiating crews, where certain penalties are likely to be called more often depending on who is refereeing the game. Putting different officials together is one solution the league is considering.

"We do have some officials, over a season, that have, as a crew, less calls, and there are crews that have more calls," Goodell said. "We'd like to see that very close. We're considering breaking crews up sometime during the season."

Goodell said the league has discussed the idea internally and with the officials' union.

"It's just another effort to try to get consistency," he said. "The No. 1 thing you want out of officiating is consistency. We see there is a range from high to low, as far as the number of fouls that are called by a crew. What can we do to try to make sure it's done consistently? Obviously, some of that is based on the game; if fouls are occurring, they should call more fouls. But over a season, that should start to become pretty level."

The league had discussed making a number of their officials full-time employees and rotating them through different crews. The league, he said, has not been able to reach an agreement with the union.

"We believe, at least on a limited basis, it could be very much a positive," Goodell said.

The NFL's cumbersome catch process has been met with additional criticism this season, even after the league worked to redefine the language of the rule following Dez Bryant's infamous overturned catch in the NFC divisional playoffs last year.

Asked how long he thought the ball should be held to constitute a catch, Goodell laughed.

"We debated that in the office the last couple weeks," he said. "I think what we're going to do is get some people to focus on evaluating every one of these, and we'll see.

"It's a balance between what you think is a catch, what the officials can officiate on a consistent basis and what are the unintended consequences. If it's too short of time, or too long of time, you're going to get more fumbles on the field. There are a lot of issues that need to be balanced in there. It's not that simple of a question. A lot of people believe the right way to do it is, the second foot down and control -- that's a catch. That's something we need to look at again."

Goodell, however, said he doesn't believe pass interference calls should be subject to replay review. He said the average NFL game is taking three minutes longer this year than it did last year, and the league needs to streamline the replay review process.

"Sometimes calls are just so tight, you may not agree with the rule," Goodell said. "A lot of controversy on the pass catches is, you don't agree with the rule, not that the officials got it wrong. Replay is not going to solve all of the problems."