Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray referred to the replacement officials as "The Three Stooges". Robbie Gould of the Chicago Bears said the refs were "clueless".
"It’s hard for guys who’ve been officiating for 10, 12, 15 years in the NFL to get it right, and there’s so much going on and so many rules changes that it’ll be difficult if there’s guys that have no experience coming in and officiating games, and with the big emphasis on player safety and the changes to player safety, as a player you want to make sure that you have capable officials that get it right."
- Kyle Vanden Bosch
The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs. These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it's kind of embarrassing.
- Chris Kluwe
I got a holding call tonight. That was awesome. So I'll take it. Hey, that's not my concern. Everybody's got to play with the same refs. The league's going to do what the league needs to do, and it'll work itself out."
- Jared Allen
I think the situation is much more dire than Jared Allen thinks. Yeah, both teams have the same referees, but neither team should have to deal with poor calls. The replacement referees have been pretty bad this year. If this spills into the regular season, it could be a huge problem for NFL teams, fans, and the league, itself.
Ray Anderson, NFL Vice President of Football Operations, has said that the replacement referees are improving, but if you think about it, it's not that hard to improve on being pathetic. There are measures being put in place that will help the replacement referees be more accurate in their calling of the game. Here are a few:
- Use of earpieces allowing communication between referees on the field and a league official
- Arrival 3.5 hours before kickoff (normally 2.5 hours before kickoff) to go over various issues such as the coin toss, official placement during plays, etc.
But can these measures really take the place of referee experience?
I don't think they can. What we're looking at here is the equivalent of an expansion team. These referees, with no NFL experience, are walking onto the field where players and fans are used to having seasoned veterans. We would often complain about missed calls, but I guess you never really know what you have until it's gone.
Take the Titans game for instance. Linebacker Kevin Malast was punched in the groin and no penalty flag was to be found. It was blatantly obvious. I sat at my friend's house and watched it happen, live on television. I also counted probably 5 holding penalties that weren't called, either.
Another thing that I noticed while watching the Chiefs vs Seahawks game was the inconsistency with regard to roughing the passer penalties. In the third quarter, Tamba Hali was nabbed with two roughing the passer penalties. The second of those penalties came after he was held going around the left tackle and fell into Russell Wilson. It should have been a holding call and the roughing the passer penalty was a close call. However, later in the game, Russell Wilson was hit in the face as he released the ball and there were no flags thrown. In past seasons, if a strong gust of wind hit the face of a quarterback, that yellow flag came out.
I'm not saying that I wish these quarterbacks were treated like glass statues in a museum with huge "do not touch" signs all over their jerseys, but I do think that the NFL needs some consistency with regard to penalties. We know that there are referees that have experience, but the NFL won't pay them. I don't understand it.
Here's a scenario for you. Teams are allotted a specific number of coaches challenges during a game. If they use all of those challenges and each challenge is successful, they get an additional challenge. After that, regardless of the conclusion of each challenge, the team is out of challenges. If that happens during a regular season game, the NFL will never hear the end of it.
A league that earns $9 billion in annual revenue should be able to pay its officials. Roger Goodell, you need to get out that big fat checkbook of yours and put a whole bunch of digits to the left of the decimal point. These replacement referees just aren't cutting it.