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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016

Replacement officials: A blessing or a cruel joke?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I get it, I really do. Everybody in any kind of negotiation always wants what's best for their side, regardless of what the other thinks or wants, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the bigwigs need to sit back and start thinking about what really matters -- player safety and getting things right.

I'm sure all you NFL fans out there already see where this is going. The replacement officials that the NFL has brought in while negotiations continue between the League and the NFL Referees Association are, quite frankly, a joke.

League officials claim the refs are doing their jobs exactly the way they're supposed to and nothing is wrong, but I beg to differ. One source on the regular official's side of the equation told NBC Sports that a single game -- Sunday night's contest between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers -- would have resulted in 30 "downgrades" of the officiating crew.

Seriously? Thirty downgrades from one game?! That number is 10 times higher than what is typically seen when the NFL's full-time officials are in the game, yet the NFL thinks that's perfectly fine.

Open your eyes, people! Who cares if the poor training and obviously limited knowledge of NFL football the replacements have isn't substantially affecting the television ratings each game? It's definitely affecting the game.

In Week 1 alone, the replacements gave extra timeouts twice, let two major errors by clock operators go and missed countless penalty calls that should or should not have been made. Yet, if you ask the NFL, everything is just fine and dandy with the replacements.

One of those countless missed penalties that wasn't called made a significant impact that I'm sure many people reading this saw and were far less than happy about. In Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons, the Chiefs were hanging in the game very well and were giving the Falcons all they could handle until the second quarter when Julio Jones got a 14-yard touchdown reception thanks to Harry Davis hitting Stanford Routt with an illegal downfield cut block that happened in the middle of an open field, but apparently, the three refs who had a clear view of it didn't see the foul happen.

Yes, it's true that Kansas City was almost certainly going to lose that game whether that call was made or not, but it certainly would have been closer. That play was quite obviously what sparked the collapse that turned what could have been an evenly-matched contest into a 40-24 rout.

What's sad about the whole thing is that was nowhere near the worst call the replacements made in the season's opening week. In the Patriots-Titans game, the referees mistook an incomplete pass for a fumble, so they didn't blow the play dead and on the fumble return, Titans quarterback Jake Locker was hit and knocked out of the game when there shouldn't have even been any action going on the field.

That was the only play that directly resulted in an injury to a player that could easily have been avoided by simply knowing the rules of the game -- this week. But don't even get me started on the 49ers-Packers game or the Denver-Pittsburgh game. Those two included just too many obvious and substantial blunders to count.

No fewer than four uncalled false starts be the 49ers, unsportsmanlike conduct being called on a player for removing his helmet when it was kicked off and the 49ers being charged with a block in the back on a punt despite being the kicking team were just a few of the biggest blunders made by referee David White's crew.

I completely support the full-time officials in their reasons for wanting to renegotiate with the NFL and even the NFL for disagreeing and wanting an arrangement that caters more to the League's interests, but come on, people. If this is what's considered OK, now, then I shudder to think what the rest of the season will be like and feel genuinely sorry for the players who have to fight through it all.

Currently, no resumption of negotiations is in the works and the two sides are as deadlocked as can be, but one can certainly hope that something happens soon to at least partially remedy this unbelievably ludicrous situation and give fans a season of football that's worth watching.

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Eric Wade
Beyond the Bench