Anyone who took the time to watch the Broncos playing against the Falcons on Monday Night Football got a very clear picture of how damaging it is to the integrity of the game to have replacement officials on the field this season.
While the league itself is making record profits its commitment to safety is beginning to look less credible with each passing week as the regular officials have been locked out over disputes concerning very meager amounts of money.
Horrible calls which have been rampant are bad enough but time after time the scabs have shown that they aren’t even knowledgeable of the rules of the game.
It is difficult to believe at this point that safety and the vaunted integrity of the game is a genuine concern for the league front office as the product on the field has been watered down to a very laughable version of what NFL fans have come to expect.
As the former head of officiating turned Fox network officiating analyst Mike Pereira tweeted Sunday night– “I’m officially over it. The regular refs need to get back on the field. Enough is enough.” — enough IS enough. The NFL does not stand to lose any money this year and while the coaches have become at least slightly more vocal there is little reason to believe that the league will succumb to the demands of its fans so long as the owners remain silent over the issue. At this point; after all that has occurred in this embarrassing environment, if the league hasn’t buckled yet chances are really good that they won’t.
The Ravens and Eagles game in Philadelphia was particularly ugly in the Week 2 match up. When John Harbaugh was asked if he had any thoughts about the officiating he responded with: “Not that I’m allowed to talk about.” After an Eagles interception and a personal foul on Baltimore’s Ray Rice the officials took five minutes just to spot the ball. After losing a challenge the Ravens were docked two timeouts instead of one and the mistake was not corrected until late in the fourth quarter. An incompletion by Michael Vick was called a fumble on the 1-yard line and when the call was reviewed and reversed the officials declared that it was fourth and goal instead of third and goal. Late in the game a Ravens touchdown was negated by an offensive pass interference call that appeared to be the right call but when it came to how many yards to mark off the officials were completely clueless. The forth quarter two-minute warning was called twice in this game the first time coming with 2:05 on the clock.
Every week in the NFL there are fights and bickering that breaks out between teams. It is the officials’ responsibility to ensure that the game is played in a controlled and orderly way. With so many calls made mistakenly and so many that are missed there is a much higher likelihood that retaliatory actions and behavior will turn the field into more of a Jerry Springer Show-esque circus or a MMA cage fight than an actual football game. The officials do not have the respect of the players and it has shown clearly in the scuffles that occurred between the Falcons and Broncos Monday night as well as the many near brawls and other issues that arose all over the league throughout Weeks 1 and 2. With the accusations coming out of the locker rooms that are flying back and forth about cheap-shots and dirty-play; under the poor guidance of these scab officials, it is only going to get worse as the season progresses and players become increasingly disenchanted with the way things are being judged on the field.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita’s tweet echoed the sentiments of many around the league and those of the fans as well. “Missed calls & bad calls are going to happen. That’s part of the deal & we can all live with it. But not knowing all the rules … and major procedural errors (like allowing the clock to run after an incomplete pass) are completely unacceptable. Enough already.”
Games can very well be decided by just one missed or bad call. That isn’t a new phenomenon in the NFL but the alarming rate at which these calls are occurring is. It stands to reason that with so many bad calls going out there are going to be far more teams being negatively affected by them. How many teams’ owners are willing to allow this glaring problem to cost their team a win? A playoff berth? Simply put when you are providing a product to your customers and they are unhappy with it then it is time to change course. The Washington Redskins were hurt by a drive ending personal foul call when wide receiver Josh Morgan responded to a seemingly unnoticed shove by the ever-taunting St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Certainly Morgan’s response was out of line and against the rules of the game but it is important to note that this is not an exceptional reaction in a game that has been allowed to spiral out of control. The point here is not to defend Morgan’s actions but to state the obvious fact that the degeneration of the game is already prevalent and it stands to only get worse as long as the replacement officials are on the field.
There have been numerous egregious errors by the scabs so far and considering the length of the list just at the end of Week 2 it is mind boggling to think of the many possible longterm implications that it could have on the season. Among many others here is just a short list of some of the more ridiculous moments that have occurred so far:
In the Washington Redskins – New Orleans Saints game, Washington started a drive on the 20 yard line after a touchback, meaning the first-down marker was exactly at the 30. On third down, from the 24 yard line R.G. III threw an incomplete pass. The Saints committed a five-yard penalty during the punt. Somehow after adding 5 to 24 Washington was given the first down on the thirty-yard line. I’m no math whizz but I’m pretty sure that arithmetic isn’t right.
Seattle was given four timeouts in the second half in their game against Arizona.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw an interception on a play where a Bears defender was clearly offside.
The Browns lost an extra opportunity to score a game winning touchdown when an Eagles defender was not flagged for jumping offside.
The 49ers were the ones punting the ball but were somehow charged with a block in the back.
In the same game against the Packers there were at least four false starts by the 49ers that never drew a flag.
Because the officials forgot to reset the play clock after a penalty Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was forced to burn a timeout.
Bears cornerback Tim Jennings is flagged for pass interference on an incredible and legal defensive play.
Likewise so was Saints safety Roman Harper on a fourth-down play that allowed the Redskins to start their next set of downs on the goal line.
An important one to note for those that believe so vehemently in defending the shield and player safety- During the Patriots and Titans game the scabs inaccurately called an incomplete pass a fumble. The play was reversed but it didn’t stop Titans’ quarterback Jake Locker from suffering a shoulder injury when he took a hit during the runback of the (non)fumble recovery. Had the call been made correctly the play would have been blown dead the second the ball hit the ground.
The list goes on and on; and in case you didn’t notice, every single one of those instances occurred in Week 1 alone and that list isn’t even close to accounting for all the blunders that took place that week. There were numerous mistakes made and in just the first week of the regular season the replacement officials did more than enough to prove that they are not up to the job. The players have already shown that they are doing things a bit differently because they know that they can get away it.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King former NFL referee, Jim Daopoulos said: “Now the players are taking advantage of the lack of experience and the lack of game-control by the replacement officials. They’re just too inconsistent.” At this point it seems clear to pretty much everybody save the league front office that the scabs aren’t getting it done and this situation has gotten out hand.
Some players have even joked about bringing a settlement to the contract dispute with their own money. Washington’s DeAngelo Hall joked: “I don’t know what they’re arguing about, but I got a couple of million on it, so let’s try to make it work. I’m sure the locker room could pot up some cash and try to help the cause out.” This is the first time since 2001 that the league has used replacement officials. The regular officials were locked out in June after their contract expired. Negotiations have been contentious and on numerous occasions throughout the summer the talks between the two parties broke down all together.
Most reports indicate that the main sticking point of the negotiations are in the pension funds. Those same reports are stating that the requested increase is at best a very modest one. Despite the growing sentiment about the problems with the replacement officials there has been very little information concerning the labor talks and little indication that the two parties are even still in negotiations at the moment. Many have questioned the audacity of the league to play hardball with such a key component of the game but it’s highly unlikely that public pressure will yield any positive results. The NFL’s paying customers will continue in their devotion to their teams and will continue to watch and purchase tickets. It is an issue with fans that they are being sold an increasingly dangerous and inferior product but it hasn’t stopped them from voicing their displeasure with their checkbooks. The NFL has doubled down on this bet and despite the resentment it may cause with their base of supporters there is no indication that the league will fold anytime soon. There are coaches whose very jobs can hinge on one bad or missed call. Players’ careers and health can be put at risk by the incompetence of the scabs and by the inexcusable decision by the league to use them. In a 9.3 billion dollar industry that is projected to go to somewhere around 16 to 18 billion within the next decade and when such a premium has been placed by Roger Goodell on the integrity and value of the game it seems hypocritical and counterproductive at this point to squabble over the earnings of the people responsible for protecting the players who represent your industry and your shield. This is an embarrassment and a disgrace to the NFL and to the fans that support it.
Peter King has tweeted about the issue- “The legitimacy of the National Football League is at stake.” For once I think pretty much everyone can agree with him. The fans can feign outrage over the latest abuse of power but until the unlikely event that they are willing to show it by withholding money the league is simply not going to listen. Baltimore’s Ray Lewis was not as diplomatic as his head coach was in his comments concerning the officiating so far this season. “The time is now,” Lewis said. “How much longer are we gonna keep going through this whole process? I don’t have the answer. I just know across the league, teams and the league are being affected by it. It’s not just this game, it’s all across the league. And so if they want the league to have the same reputation it’s always had, they’ll address the problem.”
As the Internet and twitter world erupts over each and every game and with the media, players, coaches and fans all calling for an end to the league’s second lockout in two years it is clear that now is the time for the owners to join the chorus.