Restructuring NFL Football Operations – The Game

This is the second part in a series on the restructuring of Football Operations at the League level.  Part one discussed the need for compartmentalizing the scattered programs the NFL is currently implementing.

Their should be an emphasis from the Football Operations Department to become a “support organization” in proactive service of the 32 NFL Clubs, not vice versa.

Convey an attitude and understanding to the clubs that, “We are there to guide and assist them in maximizing their own internal efforts” regarding ALL aspects of the Football Operations Pyramid.  It’s been my experience (both directly & indirectly) when club personnel say “the League”, it’s usually meant in a 4-letter derogatory manner linked to inefficiency, ineptness, inaction, or misunderstanding.

Creation of supervisory oversight in each of the 4 areas of the Football Operations Pyramid and attention paid to staffing with personnel having background and or experience in the particular area of responsibility; Game Operations, Football Processes/Procedures, Players, and Coaching/GM’s.

The Executive VP of Football Operations should be looking for comprehension and knowledge of the various challenges that face the 32 NFL Clubs in each of the 4 areas, using that experience to assist in continuing to build strong programs in support of finding strong solutions.

The lack of a grassroots understanding of the problems and issues that face club personnel from League representatives is at times baffling.  Staffing should emphasize prior experience in the related areas and have a firm comprehension of how their own efforts directly effect club personnel in executing their responsibilities at the franchise level.

The following section represents the job description of the Football Operations Department of the NFL.  I’ve organized present responsibilities into three distinct categories that directly effect and define The GAME.  Under each are listed the actual requirements extended to the Department.

The Game or “The Product” – EMPHASIS on quality, with focus all about maintaining and improving standards of excellence in every facet .

Any and all efforts should focus on the primary MISSION of bringing a quality product to NFL fans.  Though professional football feels like its riding at an all-time high in interest and following, League officials would be wise to continue to find ways to strengthen their product in every facet of its production.

TGC The Product

Game Operations

EVERYTHING involved in the production & presentation of the product.

  • Game OPS – Equipment, Field Preparation, Game Presentation, Uniform Compliance
  • Research and Development/Innovation (R&D) -  Sideline of the future

Officials & Replay

Tasked with Product “oversight”. 

  • Officiating – Management & support of officiating department & programs, club & officiating communications, build relationships & support professional, collegiate, high school, & Youth Football officiating programs
  • Officiating – Manage replay program, includes innovations in technology & communication
  • R&D – Use of video & instant replay, in-game communications/video use

Product

Sundays (Mondays & Thursdays); the game on the field & its interface with customers.             

  • Game Ops – Integrity of Game
  • R&D – Continue focus of the game to drive fan engagement
  • Other areas – Football is appropriately represented in all business decisions

TFE’s Points of Interest

The Game 

TFE is in favor of a centralized Game Day oversight of NFL Officials to ensure proper adherence and maximizing use of the VERY BEST technical support systems in game execution & enforcement.  Focus is to “Get it Right”.  TFE is of the belief that NFL officials should not be a random determiner of winning or losing.

Officiating is currently the most highly criticized and controversial aspect of The Game.  High Def television and multiple camera angles quickly reveal the truth to both fans and media.  Major networks now employ former NFL officials to provide instant feedback to fans on the interpretation and execution of rules, yet it seems week after week a lack of clarity and continuity brings competency of officiating into question.  This leaves the League open to criticism and questioning as to the lack of understanding and commitment to its own rules.

Officials are the NFL’s direct representatives to its product on game day.  Recall the recent replacement refs and how they made the League look at times. Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have already instituted a similar system.  Cost and coordination shouldn’t be an issue.  GET IT RIGHT must be the mantra of Football Operations.  The efforts and fortunes of all club coaches and staff ride on a single mistaken call that could easily be corrected at the highest of level of NFL officiating.  What good does a Monday morning explanation on NFL.com do to rectify a blown call that unfairly and unnecessarily slaps an L in your right hand column?  Let NFL Head of Officiating Dean Blandino fix it on the spot, not explain it after the fact.

TFE is in favor of future research/development and use of enhanced technology in officiating; laser yard-line sighting, micro-chipped balls, sideline “shot spot” use and whatever else American ingenuity can come up with.  Practical future use of digital technology on the sideline for coaching purposes should also be considered.

The first point supports the use of video technologies in a centralized evaluation and analysis location to ensure proper adherence and interpretations of rules.  Advanced technologies in all areas of officiating will ensure that games are properly administered by officials.  Modern professional football moves way too fast to expect outdated procedures to try and keep up.  Athletes are bigger, stronger, faster and more capable of making the unusual plays that the human eye just can’t see.  Thus the inception of localized replay review.  But the interpretation and administration of officiating judgment and NFL rules shouldn’t be any different in Cincinnati than in Miami on any given Sunday.  Consistency and fairness is key, and NFL fans demand it.  TFE also sees no absolutely NO reason for limiting which plays can be reviewed.

The second point centers on today’s athletes who are used to reacting to coaching guidance and commands through tech based tools.  The fact that sideline photo stills are still being sent to paper printers and not downloaded to tablets on the sideline is just a symptom.  And yes, I’ve heard all the arguments.  Want to generate even more interest in the game?  Allow for technologies that the new generation of fans see as common place.

TFE has made this point in the past; Football is the business and the business is football.

The point is that both have to balance each other out.  Talk of doing away with the point after touchdown or moving the PAT back in order make the play more entertaining will have ripple effects down into the college and high school levels.  If you’re going to push such an initiative, using the same logic you should also do away with the “spike” and the “kneel down”.  Remember in the end, football belongs to the kids in the sandlot and the fans of the game, not the National Football League.  Be careful what you mess with.

 Next – Restructuring the Process