I don’t blame the replacement referees. I don’t blame the angry coaches who are getting fined by the day. I don’t blame the fans. And I don’t blame the actual NFL refs who are holding out for fair market compensation.
I blame Roger Goodell and the owners entirely for an NFL product that is bordering on unwatchable. As the old cliché goes, heavy is the head that wears the crown.
The Ravens-Patriots game Sunday evening should have been a tale of two AFC contenders and their star quarterbacks battling in a playoff atmosphere. It should have been about 900 yards of offense and six lead changes in a game steeped in postseason implications.
It should have been about Torrey Smith.
But instead, the replacement refs stole the spotlight with 24 combined penalties, 218 penalty yards and Bill Belichick’s illegal contact with an official following the loss.
Things only got worse Monday evening in Seattle as 24 more yellow flags for 245 more penalty yards stole the show once again.
Green Bay and Seattle battled in front of a frenzied crowd in a game that could carry heavy NFC playoff importance. And instead of a hard-fought road win for the Packers, Mike McCarthy watched as the refs inexplicably snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
There were many questionable calls that had Jon Gruden ready to jump out of the booth in the fourth quarter. How about a phantom pass interference call on 1st and 25 or a roughing the passer call that overturns a game-clinching turnover? But the game’s final play, a Hail Mary heave to the corner of the end zone, featured not only one but two horrendous calls.
In fact, the enduring image of Referee Lockout Gate will be two officials staring directly at each other standing two yards from the play signaling two totally different outcomes simultaneously. And it cost Green Bay the win.
Don't be angry at the replacement refs. They are simply doing the best they can. They are not prepared or qualified to take on this type of responsibility. They get no respect from coaches or players and have lost control of the game. And, on more than one occasion, I have seen with my own eyes coaches intentionally try to trick a replacement ref into making the wrong call (looking at you Mike Shanahan).
The inmates are running the asylum and enough is enough.
It’s time for Roger Goodell and the NFL owners to step up to the plate and end this nonsense. In a recent Forbes valuation, 20 of the 32 NFL franchises are worth more than $1 billion. The Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams were tied for last in the NFL with $231 million in revenue while the Cowboys led the way with $500 million. The NFL’s current TV contract is a combined $20.4 billion per the deal that run out in 2013.
The NFL isn’t big business, it’s huge business. And clearly, the real NFL refs were not given enough respect for the job they do each and every Sunday. The importance of quality officiating has been dramatically undervalued and its compensation needs to catch up with the rest of football’s wealthy moneymakers.
These NFL fat cats could reach into last night’s suit and use pocket change to close the $50 million gap that supposedly exists at the negotiating table.
What will it take? A severe injury to a marquee player? Another botched call at the end of a game that costs a team a postseason berth? Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for coaches? Better yet, how about the fans simply just stop watching the garbage product the NFL is putting on the field.
So come on Roger, get it done.
-by Braden Gall