TEMPE, Ariz. -- As the Arizona Cardinals prepared a game plan for their opponents each week last season, they simultaneously prepped a scouting report on each game's team of officials.
"We scout the official that we have each Sunday as hard as we do the opposing team, because they’re all different and all call things differently, and they have different interpretations," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
"Until they’re all professionals under the same rulebook, it’s going to be that way."
If it was up to Arians, the NFL would have hired full-time referees yesterday.
The NFL employs 122 officials, according to its website, and just one is full time. Carl Johnson was the NFL’s vice president of officiating, but left that position in 2012 to return to the field in a full-time capacity.
All other 121 officials have other forms of employment. Ed Hochuli is a lawyer. Walt Coleman is a dairy farmer. Gene Steratore owns a janitorial supply company.
That bothers Arians.
"They don’t put in the hours we do," Arians said. "They watch a little film Friday night and Saturday, and then they make choices that [affect] the outcomes of our games.
"They’re not professional. They don’t work for the league. The union works for the league."
Arians suggests the solution is a new CBA -- the NFL Referees Association and the NFL agreed to their current one in 2012. The agreement is in place for eight years and is now halfway completed.
"We have 17 referees," Arians said. "They need to all be professionals."
Another option, Arians mentioned, would be to have most, if not all the calls, made in New York City by a centrally-located group of officials.
"They’d have to upgrade the number of guys that are watching them," Arians said, "but I think we have the money in the league to do that."
If Arians had his way, full-time NFL officials would begin putting in similar hours to coaches and players.
This would allow officials to learn offenses and defenses, schemes and nuances, which Arians believes would help them understand places to look at when they’re watching a play develop. He cited former NFL safety Steve Freeman as an example of an official who understands the game at a different level because he played for 12 years. As a back judge, Freeman, who is familiar with the territory, can anticipate certain situations, Arians believes.
If officials were hired full time, the idea would be that even those who never played in the NFL could watch enough film to begin seeing the game in different ways.
"That’s their job; they don’t have another job," Arians said. "They work practice, they work games, they can work Arena, they can work at their craft."
Arians said whenever coaches meet, he’s not the only one pushing for officials to become full time. He said a groundswell is beginning to develop.
"I’m not the only one," he said. "I’ve got a young group of head coaches that I don’t need to say anything anymore. They’re trumpeting my cause."