NFL in ‘fantasy’ world if it doesn’t believe product damaged

This is what it looks like when replacement officials lose control. (AP photo)

This is what it looks like when replacement officials lose control. (AP photo)

Right about the seventh time the NFL’s replacement game officials went into conference like some wayward Congressional subcommittee Monday night, I started having visions of them breaking huddle, with Curly turning and accidentally hitting Larry in the head with the ladder, which of course led to Larry dropping the paint bucket on Moe, which of course led to Moe turning on his microphone and announcing, “Personal foul. Red team. I mean, first down. False start? Ground-rule double? Wait, who had the turkey sandwich with no mayo?”

This is the NFL.

This is the NFL, isn’t it?

Last month I wrote a column stating that the NFL was damaging its own product by using replacement officials. League and former Falcons executive Ray Anderson disagreed with me, saying among other things: “By the time the season starts, this will be a very credible group of officials. We’re frankly very comfortable.”

This won't end well.

This won't end well.

Oops.

I don’t want to heap too much criticism on the officials because that would be like screaming at an eighth-grader, “Why can’t you cover Julio Jones!?!” They’ve been put into an impossible situation. So let’s put all of the bad calls and conferences aside for a moment.

The league did this. Goodell did this. Anderson did this. Maybe the games are still great and the tickets are still sold and the ratings are still high. But to deny this exercise has been a complete embarrassment would be like denying Larry’s head hurts and Moe is covered with paint.

– Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy told a radio station that the faux officials are “like fans,” adding, “One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team, like ‘McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy [team].’ Ahhh, what?!”

– The NFL had to pull a side judge off of a crew just hours before the New Orleans-Carolina game after it was discovered he was a Saints’ fan. Brian Stropolo’s Facebook page (since taken down) included several pictures of him wearing Saints gear and tailgating at games. Nice background check.

– The Falcons-Denver game included several delays for conferences, one lasting nearly 10 minutes while officials huddled after a fumble by Knowshon Moreno and a two-team scrum. Players came off the bench. Officials had clearly lost control of the game and were being yelled at — and touched — by players. Ultimately, one official called a personal foul on “93 red” (Falcon Ray Edwards). That was an improvement for the Falcons after being called “Arizona” in an exhibition game.

If you were one of the locked out real officials, this was a dream scenario: League humiliation in  a marquee game on national TV. Negotiating leverage swung big time.

The real danger is that things are likely to get worse. The fact that Week 2 was worst than Week 1 suggests players will try to get away with more every game. That increases the risk for illegal play, late hits and injuries.

If you missed it, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young had a great rant on ESPN’s postgame about the NFL’s stance throughout this (video posted below). I agree with everything Young said except for the part about the league “not caring. Goodell cares. But does he care enough? So far the answer is no.

If the NFL, a $9.3 billion industry, doesn’t settle soon with the real officials for relative pocket change — the equivalent of or $6,445.31 per game — somebody is going to get seriously injured.

A bad call is the least of the concerns.

By Jeff Schultz

Past episodes (in high-def)

Video blog: On Braves’ sweep of Nats and what it means

This Braves’ September isn’t anything like the last one

Georgia Tech shows its upside in win — and it’s impressive

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Georgia Tech’s win over Virginia

A Medlen start, a Braves’ win and finally a positive sign

Predictions: Falcons over 666, Tech wins, Pigs faceplant

Loss of Brent Grimes doesn’t have to derail Falcons’ season

Video blog: On Brent Grimes, Falcons’ offense and some early picks

Falcons finally show an offense worthy of their talent

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Falcons’ win over Chiefs

Short takes: 3 thoughts on Georgia’s win over Missouri

Georgia starts slow, then writes the winning script

108 comments Add your comment

Najeh Davenpoop

September 18th, 2012
2:02 pm

I’m still looking forward to seeing one of these replacement refs throw a flag for “giving him the business“. Over/under Week 6 before that happens.

Biff

September 18th, 2012
2:07 pm

That’s about as funny as a screen door on a battleship.

Taylor Wooten

September 18th, 2012
2:13 pm

this “blog” is fantasy.

Common

September 18th, 2012
2:17 pm

Good win guys…The game was very stop and go. Not fluid and very sloppy. But like you pointed out, it’s not necessarily the officials’ faults that they are not trained enough to be in this situation…How about that William Moore? He was looking fantastic. Hate to see the news about Michael Turner…And it sounds so cliche, but jeez, get a cab!

Anita

September 18th, 2012
2:34 pm

I have not noticed one iota of difference between with the replacement refs. The game is exactly the same.

Old Boy

September 18th, 2012
2:36 pm

One of the announcers last night (I think it was Gruden) made a good point: the replacement refs aren’t the best refs who aren’t locked out because those guys are doing SEC, Big 10, etc. games (Penn Wagers being the exception). These guys are playing way out of their league (pun intended).

Old Boy

September 18th, 2012
2:36 pm

One of the announcers last night (I think it was Gruden) made a good point: the replacement refs aren’t the best refs who aren’t locked out because those guys are doing SEC, Big 10, etc. games (Penn Wagers being the exception). These guys are playing way out of their league (pun intended).

Hillbilly D

September 18th, 2012
2:41 pm

Let’s be realistic, as long as people keep buying tickets and watching the commercials, the NFL doesn’t care.

Hillbilly D

September 18th, 2012
2:45 pm

Let’s be realistic, as long as folks keep buying tickets and watching the commercials, the NFL doesn’t care.

Hillbilly D

September 18th, 2012
2:46 pm

Sorry for the double post.

OldSchool

September 18th, 2012
2:50 pm

Agreed with everything you wrote, Jeff. It is really such a no-brainer that it is laughable. We are talking about chump change, and Goodell and his minions—as well as probably many of the owners—are continuing a power play for what?? Last night was a farce and a total embrassment for the NFL, but you can’t blame the RRs; they are doing the best they can in a no-win situation. Well, maybe you can a little. The tipped pass/pass interference initial call and marking off the wrong yardage on a couple of plays—the latter being a difference between college football and the NFL— was really inexcusable.

Sooner or later, the RRs’ incompetence and lack of experience is going to cost someone a game and cause an avoidable injury. And when the latter occurs, some player will sue the NFL for malpractice.

Sadly, however, it is going to take a grievous error that indisputably costs a team a win and/or the RRs totally losing control of a game and inciting a big-time melee to force the NFL to capitulate. Until that time, however, the NFL’s stubborn/elitist refusal to recognize the importance of the third most important facet of any NFL game is an embarassment to the leadership of the league and the team owners.

BTW, what is Arthur’s stance on this issue? Oh, I forgot, the NFL does not allow him to have one.

RW-(the original)

September 18th, 2012
3:02 pm

It’s probably been longer ago than it seems but I recall the NFL used to brag about not having full time refs. They’d even put the refs name on the screen along with what his real job was.

DeepDiver

September 18th, 2012
3:07 pm

Jeff, you’re correct but you’re missing the point.

The NFL does not care because demand has not shifted one iota. They don’t care about the PR nightmare or the loss of face, because we are still watching.

There is ZERO bargaining leverage shifting in this situation. NFL can continue to play hardball because they are ultimately a corporation and, by definition, in it for the money. We are going to continue watching, because what else are we gonna do? We’ll all moan about the officials, but we’ll all continue watching.

I suggest we all just sit back and enjoy this playing out. It makes for good comedy.

Hillbilly D

September 18th, 2012
3:07 pm

RW @ 3:02

I remember it, too. Damn we’re gettin’ old. :lol:

RW-(the original)

September 18th, 2012
3:23 pm

Damn we’re gettin’ old

As long as we don’t start using Roman numerals we can keep it in double digits for awhile.

Matt

September 18th, 2012
3:43 pm

Some, not all, of the blame has to also be put on the NFL referees. $140,000+ per year for a part time job isn’t enough? Please, they aren’t as squeeky clean on this debacle as some portray

DJ Sniper

September 18th, 2012
3:47 pm

Najee, thank you for that blast from the past! LMAO!!!

Kegger

September 18th, 2012
3:54 pm

It’s kind of like the BP oil spill… we might be pissed off about it but we’re still buying their gas.

dc

September 18th, 2012
3:55 pm

The only reason I’ve noticed the refs is because of the announcers making a big deal out of nothing. With the advent of instant replay, bad calls are a minor nuisance, not something that damages the brand.

And for most of the players, it’s just another thing to gripe about and blame for their mistakes.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

September 18th, 2012
4:01 pm

I am 100% behind the NFL in their stance with the officals. BREAK THE UNION!

TrishaDishaWarEagle

September 18th, 2012
4:04 pm

RIP Steve Sabol

I love NFL films style of filming, they revolutionized the game.

Class of '98

September 18th, 2012
4:04 pm

Anyone who thinks the “real” refs are much better also live in a fantasy world. All of these mistakes by the scab referees are under a microscope merely because they are scab referees. We are all LOOKING for mistakes.

The “real” refs make LOTS of mistakes too, because they are human beings, just like the QB’s who overthrow recievers, linemen who jump offsides and WR’s who drop passes.

The mistakes by the “real” refs aren’t as closely scrutinized, that’s the only real difference.

rivercard

September 18th, 2012
4:10 pm

Anita – if you believe that I would suggest that you don’t understand the nuances of the game.

Trisha- disagree, but you have identified the issue.

Young is right. I guess people believe that people trained and experienced in their jobs are no better at it than some clown off the street. Don’t know what they do , but might want to hope that attitude doesn’t catch on. If it does, I think I would make one hell of a Commissioner

Amen, Class of '98...

September 18th, 2012
4:11 pm

…if it weren’t for blowhards like the talking heads and Shultzie we would not even know that “the real” refs were not there – they make mistakes, too, it is these “reporters” who keep the issue alive…

SimpleDawg

September 18th, 2012
4:19 pm

I thought Steve Young had been drinkin’……. He was incensed. He went on a scorched-earth rant that made Rush look docile.

I think the others on the set were more than a little surprised he reacted so harshly.

SimpleDawg

September 18th, 2012
4:19 pm

I thought Steve Young had been drinkin’……. He was incensed. He went on a scorched-earth rant that made Rush look docile.

I think the others on the set were more than a little surprised he reacted so harshly.

SimpleDawg

September 18th, 2012
4:19 pm

I thought Steve Young had been drinkin’……. He was incensed. He went on a scorched-earth rant that made Rush look docile.

I think the others on the set were more than a little surprised he reacted so harshly.

SimpleDawg

September 18th, 2012
4:19 pm

I thought Steve Young had been drinkin’……. He was incensed. He went on a scorched-earth rant that made Rush look docile.

I think the others on the set were more than a little surprised he reacted so harshly.

SimpleDawg

September 18th, 2012
4:20 pm

My sender got stuck……

rivercard

September 18th, 2012
4:21 pm

or maybe you were drinking? just kidding

DeepDiver

September 18th, 2012
4:25 pm

Of course the regular refs blow calls, but they tend to keep the game moving and exert a better modicum of control on the action.

The scab refs have made egregious, fundamental mistakes and not all have been caught, eg the granting of extra timeouts, downs, errors in spotting the ball and inaccurate enforcement of called penalties.

So yeah, that is pretty noticeable. It’s not like we are debating pass interference or holding calls.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

September 18th, 2012
4:27 pm

@Rivercard

I do not say that at this point , the D3 officials are better than Ed Hockuli et al…

I DO despise unions, and I feel life should be a meritocracy as most of the free market is. I will say that the way the NFL has gone about this is not the best. They need to go REAGAN on the NFLRA and fire them all…Then offer open tryouts for previous NFLRA members and MAJOR conference D1 officials. BREAK THE UNION and then hire the best available. We are, after all, in an employers market not an employees market (thanks to obamanomics) in the rest of the private sector.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

September 18th, 2012
4:30 pm

rivercard,

I DO despise unions, and I feel life should be a meritocracy as most of the free market is. I will say that the way the NFL has gone about this is not the best. They need to go REAGAN on the NFLRA and fire them all…Then offer open tryouts for previous NFLRA members and MAJOR conference D1 officials. BREAK THE UNION and then hire the best available. We are, after all, in an employers market not an employees market (thanks to obamanomics) in the rest of the private sector.

Abnerish

September 18th, 2012
4:33 pm

I turned on Sportscenter Monday morning (first mistake), and it was clear that the Worldwide leader had decided it was time to side with the union and bash the NFL. They talked about this issue ad nauseum and used examples of “bad officiating” that were simply made up. Those examples were not THAT bad and I could easily see experienced officials making similar mistakes. Personally, I think that the refs have done remarkably well considering they are all rookies. The NFL will only cave if the players and coaches continue to make up stories like DeSean Jackson did, and continue to disrespect the refs. If that stuff dies down, the refs will be fully capable by week 6 and the veteran refs will either give in or the union will be busted forever.

eastbound and down

September 18th, 2012
4:37 pm

the stooges reference should have been “3 little pigskins” steve young said all that needed to be said. the nfl doesn’t care. if it did, the officials would be working.

TrishaDishaWarEagle

September 18th, 2012
4:39 pm

Rivercard, I despise UNIONS. I do not say that the current D3 refs are superior to Ed Hochuli and co. but I do believe in busting Unions. Goodell should do to the NFLPA what Reagan did to PATCO and fire them all and then, he could attract major conference (SEC, PAC!0, BIGTEN) officials because it would not be a week to week gig worried about the NFLRA officials coming back, and who wouldn’t jump from college to the NFL.

rivercard

September 18th, 2012
4:43 pm

Deep Diver – you nailed it.

Abnerish

September 18th, 2012
4:45 pm

Sorry, LeSean McCoy not DeSean Jackson. Easy mistake. Either way, there is no way that story is even remotely true. No chance.

larry

September 18th, 2012
5:02 pm

What a total CROCK! The officiating has always been godawful; often to the point where I’ve been convince the referees were bought and paid for. The replacement refs may be a tad slower; but don’t hand me that utter tripe that the “official” refs are any better. They are most decidedly NOT!

Billy Mumphries

September 18th, 2012
5:07 pm

“I have not noticed one iota of difference between with the replacement refs. The game is exactly the same.”

You’re correct. A bit more confusion and time to work through stuff but will improve. AJC, we’re not talking brain surgeons here. These guys can adapt to unfamiliar rules, in time, and learn to deal with the pressure a bit better. I don’t like some of the advocates coming out of the woodwork and trying to pressure the NFL into a long-term deal that is above what they deserve to earn for what they bring to the table. I’m hopeful that ownership will coninue to negotiatein good faith and give them no more that they deserve. Beat writers and nitwitTV/radio pundits find it easy to spend other people’s money. Perfect fit for the Democrat Party.

Billy Mumphries

September 18th, 2012
5:09 pm

Bst the union….always wanting more than they are worth.

Billy Mumphries

September 18th, 2012
5:09 pm

GT

September 18th, 2012
5:11 pm

I honestly was wondering last night if the outcome of this game would have been different with good refs. The whole flow of the game was off for both quarterbacks, though I thought Matt played very well and his concentration was better than Manning’s.

LawDawg

September 18th, 2012
5:11 pm

I’m sorry. Did anyone posting on here actual watch the effing game last night???

No difference between this and regular refs? Really? That first quarter scrum and some of the other calls were bush league. Sure bad pass interference calls happen and NFL officiating is not over the moon great, but unlike Week 1, Week 2 really showed a difference in refereeing.

rivercard

September 18th, 2012
5:11 pm

larry – I don’t know what you do , but have you not gained any skills or knowledge from your experience that might make it conceivable that someone not so trained might not be able to step in and do the quality of work that you perform?

JSS

September 18th, 2012
5:19 pm

Hilarious, “Break the union!” And you don’t even know what the league locked out the refs for… All the refs want is a pension floor that is clarified and funded! While the glorious NFL led by the gadfly Goodell is trying not just add more officials, but do it without increasing the amount of money paid into the general pool that pays the entire group of officials… A overall decrease of 15% for every ref… That is crazy…

Oh yeah genius, there is a reason why the top refs in college didn’t come up when the regular refs were locked out… They are members of the same signatory agreement (referees, NFL, and the Conferences in D1 and DII) and the NFL locked them out too! Air traffic controlling has never recovered from Reagan’s firing… They weren’t right to strike, but that fool just made the problem worse!

JSS

September 18th, 2012
5:19 pm

Hilarious, “Break the union!” And you don’t even know what the league locked out the refs for… All the refs want is a pension floor that is clarified and funded! While the glorious NFL led by the gadfly Goodell is trying not just add more officials, but do it without increasing the amount of money paid into the general pool that pays the entire group of officials… A overall decrease of 15% for every ref… That is crazy…

Oh yeah genius, there is a reason why the top refs in college didn’t come up when the regular refs were locked out… They are members of the same signatory agreement (referees, NFL, and the Conferences in D1 and DII) and the NFL locked them out too! Air traffic controlling has never recovered from Reagan’s firing… They weren’t right to strike, but that fool just made the problem worse!

JSS

September 18th, 2012
5:19 pm

Hilarious, “Break the union!” And you don’t even know what the league locked out the refs for… All the refs want is a pension floor that is clarified and funded! While the glorious NFL led by the gadfly Goodell is trying not just add more officials, but do it without increasing the amount of money paid into the general pool that pays the entire group of officials… A overall decrease of 15% for every ref… That is crazy…

Oh yeah genius, there is a reason why the top refs in college didn’t come up when the regular refs were locked out… They are members of the same signatory agreement (referees, NFL, and the Conferences in D1 and DII) and the NFL locked them out too! Air traffic controlling has never recovered from Reagan’s firing… They weren’t right to strike, but that fool just made the problem worse!

JSS

September 18th, 2012
5:25 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
Can you delete two of those posts?

Thanks for posting the blog from the pre-season, said it then, saying it now: “The NFL is stealing folks money!”

Boo Boo

September 18th, 2012
5:31 pm

What gets lost in the translation is this: Joe fan pays for any higher salaries and benefits gained by striking referees. Heck, what’s another $6,400 a game to a season ticket holder? $5? $10? They can handle that. Then let’s have another player strike, and another, and another. Why not let the Chicago teachers demand the NFL (i.e.: Joe Fan) pay for them to teach. Seriously though, last night’s game reminded me of Naked Gun, when Leslie Nielson faked being a home plate umpire. Those officials added entertainment to a sporting event. It was like rasslin, where the officials look one way while an offensive player spots the ball another five yards upfield. Hahahaha. No one notices. What could be more funny? Where else can a team get an extra time out at the end of a game. Hilarious! Like when Colorado was co-champions after turning a loss into a victory with a 5th down. We should be honored we don’t have to pay more just to see such fun and games.