NFL’s Replacement Refs Blow It Again

While most of you slept Monday night, the NFL’s replacement officials ripped a victory from the hands of the Green Bay Packers and tarnished the NFL’s pristine legacy in the process. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

I won’t recap the events of last night’s catastrophe because you can probably read them on any website to get caught up. Plus, it’s 2AM and there are a million points to be made in regards to Monday night’s travesty, so let’s get right to them.

First, regardless of your allegiance, you have to feel for the Green Bay Packers. It’s one thing to lose a game on a fluke play or a silly mistake. It’s a whole different story when you lose solely because officials failed to make what so many believed was an easy call.

ESPN’s postgame crew of Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer and Steve Young were 20 yards from the controversial play, and each one knew the Packers controlled possession of the football. The back judge came to the same conclusion but for some inexplicable reason didn’t put up a fight when the side judge recklessly ruled a touchdown.

In questionable situations, normal refs often gather to determine what everyone saw before making a ruling. Not these amateurs. The side judged ruled touchdown without discussion. He didn’t even wait for the back judge’s call even though only four feet separated the two men. I can’t remember a single time in my life when a game was lost because an official completely blew the game-defining call.

Second, the NFL is a sham right now. Roger Goodell wants us to believe he and the owners care about the players and the NFL’s integrity, and yet they parade these buffoons out on a weekly basis to officiate games they have no business officiating. What’s worse, Goodell and the NFL think we (the fans) are idiots by constantly releasing press reports about the replacement refs doing an adequate job. Adequate? Try cataclysmic.

On Tuesday the NFL will undoubtedly say the officials made the right call in a tough situation even though anyone outside of Seattle knows it’s BS. It insults me that the NFL constantly shines sh** and calls it gold and believes we’re dumb enough not to notice. We know what we’re watching, Mr. Goodell. You’re the fool here. Or, as the phrase goes; you’re the one not wearing any pants.

Third, the NFL’s hypocrisy in regards to the whole replacement ref situation is nauseating. While the NFL continually comprises the integrity of the game and player safety, it demands coaches and players respect the replacement officials. Is the air poisoned in the league office? Can they not see the plank in their own eye? – Hey coaches and players, please respect the officials even though they may be wrong. I know we aren’t respecting the purity of the game, or the fact that this is your livelihood, or even players’ safety, but do us a huge solid and respect the officials. Ok? Thanks. – It’s an abomination. That’s what it is.

What does Goodell expect from the coaches? Are they supposed to look at a replacement ref and say, “Oh, it’s cool. I understand you have no idea what the heck you’re doing.” Of course not. NFL coaches face more scrutiny than any other position in sports. For them, winning is what keeps them employed. Messing with the stability of the game by implementing unqualified officials sends ripples beyond the 60 minutes of game time. It messes with a coaches career, player safety, playoff standing, and so much more. You think a loss to an NFC opponent won’t impact the Packers in December as the playoffs approach? Think again.

John Harbaugh and Bill Belichick were fed up Sunday night and often let the officials hear about it by berading them. I actually applaud their actions. It’s time to stand up to Goodell. Besides, the coaches aren’t really angry with the officials; they’re pissed off at the NFL and Goodell. Coaches should lash out. If Goodell thinks it’s a bad look for the league then perhaps he should eliminate the problem by bringing back the normal refs. He’s in control here, so he needs to stop dishing out commands and start taking responsibility for a mess he created.

Fourth, the final play of Monday’s contest wasn’t the only play the officials blew. Not even close. In fact, the Packers should have won the game a few drives earlier when they forced a Seattle interception deep inside their own territory. Instead of a turnover, though, the lead official whistled the Packers for roughing the passer.

Here’s the problem with that call; the penalized player dove when Russell Wilson still had the ball in his hand. Though the Green Bay defender landed around Wilson’s legs, it shouldn’t have mattered because Wilson was well outside the pocket. Hitting a quarterback below the knees only applies inside the pocket. Obviously, the replacement official missed that minor detail and cost the Packers a chance to go up by 12 or 13, or at the very least, eight points. And don’t even get me started on the phantom pass interference calls.

Fifth, it’s a disgrace that the Seahawk players are pretending nothing happened. We get it, you’re supposed to play dumb, but don’t pull a page out of the NFL’s playbook and pretend we’re all a bunch of idiots. We saw what happened. We saw Golden Tate give Sam Shields a two arm shove on that decisive play. We saw M.D. Jennings come down with the ball while Tate’s one arm was tangled with Jennings. Russell Wilson isn’t a hero. Golden Tate didn’t make a great play. The Seahawks and Pete Carroll didn’t win because they kept fighting. Seattle got lucky. That’s it.

All the Seahawk fans that have already taken to message boards about bad calls going both ways have a valid point, but they’re forgetting one major problem; None of those other missed calls single-handedly swung the game.

The Packers won Monday night, yet are flying home with a 1-2 record. The NFL can’t explain that without lying or admitting its own incompetence in handling this referee lockout.

Sixth, the normal replay official from Monday’s game should be fired. Yes, I understand replay in that situation could not change possession after the ruling on the field had been made. However, if that replay official had any stones, he’d think to himself, Hmm. Replay is here so we can ensure the correct team is credited for making a play as often as possible. With that understanding, there’s no way I can allow the Packers to lose a game they really won just because a replacement official is a complete idiot. But no, the replay official hid like a pansy and allowed the NFL’s worst nightmare to come true.

Seventh, I think the coaches should take a stand. Next week, instead of taking the field for the opening kickoffs at 1PM ET, coaches and players should sit on the sidelines for a full hour before finally starting the game. Enough is enough. Fans clearly won’t stop watching. The NFL won’t budge because they’re not losing money. It’s up to the players and coaches now to take action.

I’d support them in any measure taken because it’s their paychecks and their safety that Goodell and the league office are jeopardizing each and every time they trot these replacement refs onto the field. If the owners and Goodell refuse to see the hypocrisy of their actions, then it’s time to embarrass them until they break. What better way to embarrass the Commissioner and punish billionaire owners then to have football stadiums filled with tens of thousands of fans sitting around watching NFL players chilling on the sidelines?

Rodger Goodell doesn’t care about the coaches, players, or the fans. His player safety campaign is a hoax to uphold the NFL’s now tarnished image. Pride and the almighty dollar have ruled Goodell’s tenure since day one. The NFL’s integrity and its reputation as the gold standard for professional sports leagues have gone by the wayside as a result.

Fittingly, it was the Packers, the one NFL team without an owner, who fell victim to the NFL’s greed on Monday night. Unless immediate changes are made, there will only be more. Plenty more. And it will only be a matter of time before we the fans are victims, too, if we’re not already.


  1. Derek

    Your points are all valid, and yet because of the horrible replacement refs the NFL is more popular than ever. In the midst of an election year all anyone wants to argue is the NFL. Goodell’s ego is actually being boosted by the league’s image being tarnished. And his wallet is probably a little bit larger as well.

    Personally, I do not see a quick end coming. I believe one of two things needs to happen for the real refs to come back: boycott by players/coaches and/or boycott by the fans. Honestly, it’s far more difficult for the players/coaches because, as you mentioned, we are talking about livelihood.

    Which brings me all the way back to my argument back during the lockout. NFL fans are smart and stupid at the same time. We know we are being fed crap, and yet we continue to eat it up. Sure it’s extreme, but if people stopped buying tickets, canceled cable subscriptions, and actually made Goodell feel like he is losing his league things might change. But Goodell knows this will not happen. Therefore he has the liberty to keep jogging out replacement officials who will ruin the level of play, but still keep people watching all the same. Right now Goodell is in a win-win. Only the fans can start making him lose.

  2. Ryan (Author)

    I think you’re wrong. Even though fans won’t stop consuming the NFL right away, there is no doubt the NFL has been tarnished by this fiasco. And it’s just not Goodell here. It’s the owners, too. They’re all to blame and they’re all hurt by last night’s events. They care about the league’s brand because it’s what makes them rich. Fans are already fed up. The difference between the player lockout and this situation is that during the players lockout the product never suffered. It was simply taken away. When the quality of the product is diminished (which is what’s happening now), the backlash will start, and eventually the brand will suffer. When the brand suffers, money will start going out the door. It won’t be immediate, but over time it will happen. Last night was the tipping point. If the situation isn’t corrected in the next week or so, and another game is swung because of incompetence, fans and advertisers will abandon the NFL. Think about it, would you keeping watching if your team no longer controlled its destiny as far as winning and losing? Of course not. It sounds extreme but that’s exactly where the NFL is right now.

  3. Derek

    I’m already not watching.

    In response to Maximus’ “are you not entertained?” my answer is a resounding “no!”

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