Could the Long Night of Replacement Refs be Over?
Those who like us are NFL-crazy need not be reminded of what the biggest issue in the game is at this moment - replacement officials. By virtually all accounts, the quality of officiating during the first three weeks of the NFL season has been low - and it just seems like it's gotten worse every week. It started with the length of the games - we saw multiple games last over 3 hours as a result of the constant pauses in play for referees to confer or review plays. But things have progressed to incorrect calls and mistakes in procedure and mistakes in yardage. Dubious calls of pass interference have been a mainstay. Of course, things came to a head Monday night in the Seahawks-Packers game. Russell Wilson (who we are blatantly bias towards) threw a fateful last-minute Hail Mary that got caught...by someone. Don't get us wrong - we are THRILLED Russell got the big win at home. We just wish it hadn't come at the hands of two refs making opposing signals. There is one other aspect we've particularly noticed in these games officiated by the replacement officials. Every game we've seen has featured players getting exceptionally aggressive and combative in between plays. Every game, whether it's Rams-Redskins or Eagles-Ravens, shouting and shoving seem to be a hallmark. It's hard not to draw correlation to a lack of respect for the replacement officials and their ability to maintain control over the tenor of a game. We hasten to add to the chorus around the country that this is not the fault of the replacement refs themselves. These referees are from low-level college programs and high school programs, and are simply overmatched and inexperienced in officiating under the speed and complexity of an NFL game. Rules are not the same across high school, college, and professional football - and it is essential that referees have a firm grasp of exact rules and yardages. The reaction from players, sports media, and fans across the country has reached a fever pitch. Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Victor Cruz are just a few of the big name players who have expressed their discontent with the quality of the officiating during the lockout. This started out as a blog post talking about the ongoing issue - but now it looks like we might be at the end of this difficult time for the NFL. It does seem Monday night's game ratcheted the urgency up for the NFL and Referee's Union, as they have been in near-constant negotiation since Tuesday. And now the scuttlebutt (yes, I did just use that term) is that a deal might be close at hand. Reportedly, both sides have made some concessions and now are ironing out details. Imagine that - compromise by both sides. Of course, analysis of who "won" the lockout will begin as soon as terms of the new CBA come to light - but as long as the real, experienced refs get on the field the fans will feel victorious. Let's all hope, for the sake of the game we so obsessively love, they're as close to a deal as the reports seem.