Overwhelmed, frightened, inept, just plain bad. All of these are words that have been used to describe the performance of the NFL's replacement officials through the first two weeks of the season. There have been countless phantom calls and obvious, egregious no-calls. Pass interference penalties are being called for looking at a receiver too long. The refs seem intimidated by the players and they make decisions based on their reactions as well as those of fans and coaches. An example of this would be Randall Cobb of the Packers, who returned a punt that was aided by an obvious clipping penalty, which was called on the field. After intense scrutiny from the Lambeau faithful, the refs picked up the flag and awarded the touchdown.
The bigger issue than bad calls is just the simple operation of the game, with many instances of refs placing the ball in terrible spots, not knowing when to stop and start the play clock and above all, not applying the NFL's rules for player safety. They have allowed a lot of dirty plays and after the whistle stuff that has just been ignored. The refs don't have any control and have done a bad job at breaking up fights, they have allowed them to escalate and take fooorrrreeeevvvveeeerrr to sort them out. This was made painfully obvious during last Monday night's Falcons vs Broncos game. The refs were incapable of breaking the players up and didn't seem willing, or maybe courageous enough to use their authority. The most pressing issue I noticed is that the refs go listen to everyone plead their case before keeping the game going. This led to a first quarter that took over an hour to complete.
Episodes like these, among many others have led to harsh criticism from all angles, including many current and former players. Steve Young, who works the Monday night games for ESPN said "the NFL doesn't care because people will still watch the games, they will still make money." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for his inability to get a deal done with the officials. He has been called a hypocrite for going on and on about player safety, yet allowing these refs to work games and put players at risk. "There's no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there," Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka has said. "We've got to get that taken care of."
Simply put by the Giants linebacker, this has to be "taken care of." This entire ordeal has to be placed at the feet of Goodell. The refs can't be blamed because they just weren't prepared for the NFL game with many of them from high school or low-Division college football. Goodell is the man that even atop a massive, billion dollar corporation, won't give a few extra bucks to the refs. Players have griped about Goodell for years and his "my way or the highway" approach but this has reached an all-time low point. Petty just for petty's sake, is he trying to prove a point? Goodell owes it to the fans to go into the next negotiating meeting, give them a blank check and have them write in a reasonable amount, with pensions and all the perks included.
The sooner the better, so we can get back to talking about what should be an exciting, intriguing season. The replacement refs are hopeless, everyone can see it. Once again, it's not their fault, they were set up for failure. Goodell needs to get this done and give his league it's integrity back, he owes it to the fans. In last week's Ravens-Eagles game, a ref told Eagles running back LeSean McCoy hey man I need you for my fantasy team; another ref was pulled from the Saints-Panthers game after his allegiance to the Saints was discovered through his Facebook page. Get them off the field and back to watching Mr. Goodell. They make up part of the crazed fans that have helped you get the league to where it is; and they always say, you can't let the inmates run the asylum.