NFL officiating was under a bright microscope during the 2015 season.
There were seemingly more questionable and game-changing calls by the officials compared to previous years, and the Ravens found themselves on the wrong side of some late-game blunders.
The most notable was in Week 10 when the officials missed a clear false start penalty against Jacksonville in the final seconds. A correct call would have ended the game in a Ravens victory, but the Jaguars ended up kicking a game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock.
NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino admitted the next day that the officials erred and the Ravens should have won.
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti was asked during last week's season-review press conference to give his assessment of officiating around the league.
"I do not think that the men in those positions are any worse at their job than they were 10 years ago," Bisciotti said. "I honestly believe that our rulebook has gotten too thick. When the head of officiating is convening with Hall of Fame wide receivers to try and define, 'What is a catch?' the rulebook is too big."
The complexity of the rule book has been a common talking point in league circles the last few years. The NFL continues to add nuances to the rules year after year, putting more responsibility on the officials to determine split-second outcomes that can sway the result of games.
Bisciotti also campaigned for the on-field officials to have the ability to get assistance from an outside party that has access to instant replay. That's how the NCAA handles its replays – all review calls come from an official in a replay booth, rather than coaches being asked to challenge the play. The replay official then makes the call, instead of the referee on the field.
"I think that we do need to simplify some rules, and I think that referees on the field need outside help," Bisciotti said. "I absolutely believe that the fan has an advantage to the referees."
The improvement of the television broadcast over the last several years has also magnified mistakes by the officials. The broadcast crew is able to provide significantly more replay angles compared to just 10 years ago, and the quality of the cameras has improved drastically.
Even the end-zone pylons have cameras in them for current NFL broadcasts.
"Something happens, and they have to make a split-second decision about what they saw. And then we get to see it from six different angles in HD, in slow-mo and now 360 [degrees]," Bisciotti said.
Improving the quality of officiating is a constant goal for the league and the issues Bisciotti brought up are likely to be discussed as the NFL Owner's Meetings in March.* *
"I think that we need to grow the function of refereeing a little faster than it has," Bisciotti said. "I think that we are getting behind, and I think it's making these people look incompetent, and I don't think it's a competence issue. I really don't."