The NFL is getting serious about improving the performance of its zebras.
NFL Media's Judy Battista reported Friday that league decision-makers are considering an idea to use an eighth official during the 2014 preseason, according to the NFL's head of officiating, Dean Blandino.
Battista said on "NFL AM" on Friday that the eighth referee would serve as an "extra pair of eyes" in the offensive backfield, primarily watching for holding infractions -- especially from defensive players.
Officials have struggled to keep up with a game that's "stretching out" and stressing the pass. Battista noted that when the NFL jumped from six to seven officials in 1978, offenses threw the ball just 40.9 percent of the time. That figure jumped to 54.5 percent in 2013.
The eighth official is just an experiment for now and is a "long way" from becoming a regular-season fixture, Battista reported. The league's Competition Committee will take a thorough look at the results before possibly expanding the idea into the regular season. That won't happen in 2014.
On paper, adding an extra official makes sense. Too often, the referees appeared overwhelmed last season, finding themselves at the heart of manifold controversies. Extra eyes can't hurt.