COLUMN: NFL, not replacement referees to blame for poor officiating

The effect of the replacement referees has been felt across the league in the first two weeks of the season (Photo Courtesy of Ed Yourdon/Flickr)
The effect of the replacement referees has been felt across the league in the first two weeks of the season (Photo Courtesy of Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

The first two weeks of the NFL season have come and gone. There are new faces in new places, swapping old digs for new Nike-sponsored jerseys. But not only have there been player swaps but referee swaps as well.

A falling out between commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL with the NFL Referee Association left the league with no choice but to use replacement referees for games this season. And thus far, there have been a plethora of complaints from coaches, players and fans.

Now I understand that being an official in the NFL is no easy task and it takes some time to get acquainted with the flow of an NFL game, but in the short period of time there have been some horrendous calls that have affected games. Incomplete passes have been called fumbles, extra timeouts have been handed out and one referee has already been pulled due to his public announcement of being a New Orleans Saints fan---before calling a Saints game.

The outcry from those who follow the NFL has been almost unanimous. Just this past week, a number of players, coaches and broadcasters have overwhelmingly ridiculed the officiating. On Monday Night Football this past week between the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons, ESPN broadcaster Mike Tirico called the game's officiating "embarrassing". The referees lost command of the game early and were never able to regain control .

I watched Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan run for a first down, sliding while taking contact from a Saints defender. After Ryan called for a flag, he was awarded it. Now in hindsight it was the right call, but when you have players barking at the officials for calls and getting them, you have to wonder how much players can effect how a game is called.

Referees are supposed to be neutral and when they make a particular call. They must stand behind their call or confer with the other officials about whether a call is warranted. Being inconsistent as an official goes against their role as mediators and rule enforcers on the field. For a referee, it's better seen than talked about.

Players have come out on the issue from all across the league, pushing Goodell and the referees to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Baltimore Ravens linebacker and NFL veteran Ray Lewis voiced his opinion on Sunday about the poor officiating.

"Get the regular referees in here and let the games play themselves out," said Lewis. "We already have enough controversy with the regular refs calling the plays."

One of the few (if any) supporters of the new officials is St. Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who has been notorious for his on-field altercations.

If Cortland Finnegan is a fan of the officiating than I strongly disagree. And that's not just because his rough play last Sunday against the Redskins led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan, costing the team the game. Finnegan is known around sports as one of the dirtiest players and prides himself on playing physical and chippy football.

The NFL and the referees met this week in the attempt of negotiating a deal to get the regular referees back to work. Talks have been ineffective so far but at least both parties are trying to work things out.

With all that aside, I can't place the majority of the blame on the officials. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry that has multiple avenues for revenue streams. Both sides need to settle their differences, come to turns on a new deal and fix the problem at hand---mediocre officiating .

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