What's not enough and what's too much?
As an NFL official for 19 years and now as an analyst for ESPN, Michigan City native John Parry wonders himself where the line should be drawn.
"That's a tough question to answer," Parry said. "Officiating's never going to be perfect, no matter the sport. We've created this system where talented, educated
people are watching high-definition monitors. We need to have this incredible technology, the frame-by-frame, but as we strive for perfection, we have to look at how it impacts the entertainment value of the game. There's a balance in everything and you have to try to find some rhythm. It's a fine line. Is it enough? You're enough is a little different than my enough?"
Contrary to some critics' opinions, officials aren't looking to toss flags on every single plays. Parry said he and his crew would tell players things like, 'Don't challenge me' or 'You're right on the border' to plant the seed for a penalty before actually calling one.
"I always tell people what they think is the easiest call can be the hardest call to make," he said. "I'd like to put everybody on an NFL football field and see the speed of the game. It takes years to slow down the process, to be able to see eight, nine, 10 things from one, two, 10 angles. There will be a play and everybody goes, oh my God, stop the game, take a look at this play, it just jumps out as totally wrong."
Now the league has added the option of allowing reviews on pass interference calls and non-calls, and it came into play in Thursday's season opener between the Bears and Packers. These rulings can be much more arbitrary than judging whether a player was in bounds on a catch or a player's knee was down on a fumble.
"In the fourth quarter, we had two plays where offensive pass interference was called," Parry said. "One of them was challenged and I liked the outcome. There was a reaction by the defense and the (receiver's) arm was extended. You look at it in slow (motion), it's just so close."
The new interference rule came into effect in large part due to the outcry over the non-call late in the Saints-Rams NFC playoff game. Had it been called, the Saints most likely would have won, but it wasn't and they ultimately lost.
"I can show you an angle where it looks like the ball is already past and another where it looks like there was contact before," Parry said. "Everybody was focused on the pass interference and it wasn't as clear cut as you think, but the portion of the play that was clear cut was the helmet-to-helmet contact against a defenseless receiver. If that's called, it's an automatic first down and we're not having this conversation."
As part of his new role, Parry will be doing segments for ESPN that will shed a new light on the men in stripes who are the subject of so much coach, player and fan vitriol. He's doing the same prep work, poring over new rules and points of emphasis, as if he was going to be on the field.
"What we're hoping to deliver is to provide the fan base with a key to a door that will unlock officiating stuff that they don't know," he said. "We want to tell people who they are, how they prepare, what they do during the week, the human side. These segments will tell that story."