Some thoughts on the replacement officials:
You know, my biggest problem with the replacement officials is that the second level of verification — where the officials have to constantly confer with each other, and then check with the NFL rep — makes the game a huge slog. I won’t dispute that there haven’t been controversial calls. However, I’m not sure that it’s more than typical. Seattle fans never forget that Super Bowl XL was won through shoddy officiating, and Chargers fans will never forget when a blown Ed Hochuli call cost them a game.
Peter King at SI mentioned that it’s the big games — the Monday Night and Sunday Night games — where the officials make the biggest errors due to pressure. Perhaps. But how much of perception is being guided by the people in the announce booth. You know, the people who the viewers at home must rely on to interpret whether there was a proper call or not? Throughout both the Sunday and Monday games, there was constant bickering about how the referees missed the obvious calls, and that it was to the detriment of the NFL. How it was harming the product.
Here’s the thing, though: both teams employed a striking NFL referee to help interpret the play. So how much of that interpretation itself is filtered through the eyes of a biased official? You know, an official whose best interest it is to make the replacement referees look as incompetent as possible? After all, the more the stupider the replacement refs look, the better they look by comparison. It always annoyed me when Gruden or the other guy (can’t remember his name) would turn to the striking ref on call and ask him, “What did the replacement ref get wrong?”
There’s a lot of on-air hand wringing about how it’s not the replacement refs’ fault, they’re doing their best, yadda yadda yadda… but I’m wondering how much self-interest comes into play.
Example: the very controversial end of the Seattle-Green Bay game. Gruden kept hammering how Seattle stole the game from Green Bay and it was the ref’s fault. How Shields grabbed the ball and brought it to his body and by doing so picked up the interception. I’d like to believe Gruden’s take on things… but the fact is that they have a striking ref on staff, and to me that already represents a biased view on things. Is it possible to interpret the ruling — which was put under video review — to see that Golden Tate also had his hands on the ball, and he was the first to have his feet on the ground? Perhaps… but none of that possibility was ever discussed beyond Gruden and friend groaning about “Green Bay was robbed, Green Bay was robbed, etc.”