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.”
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)