Official Officials Officially Return!
Since Tuesday rumors have been swirling about that suggested that the NFL and NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) were back at the bargaining table and close to finally ending their longstanding lockout. It turns out that those rumors were true. It has been reported that the lockout is officially over.
Prior to the Monday night debacle that you can see here if you have been living under a rock, there seemed to be no consensus as to when the NFL and NFLRA would cross the lines that they had dug in the sand after the last round of negotiation a few weeks back. The issues primarily regarded the pension system for current officials and the introduction of a “taxi quad” of refs which would replace any underperforming member. After some negotiations throughout the summer, both sides provided a rock and a hard place for the players, coaches, and fans alike to be stuck in.
For the players, the frustration was near a boiling point. After every week of the regular season so far, various players have mentioned the difficulties that come with replacement refs. In short, the games were growing out of hand. Increased holding and hand checking, pushing and shoving after the whistle, and lengthened stoppages of the game to distribute run of the mill penalty calls all contributed to players becoming more and more vocal about their dissatisfaction throughout the early stages of the season. For example, Drew Brees, often considered a poster boy for the NFL with his friendly demeanor and professionalism, said:
“You know, they’re just not prepared to be in this situation. The game is so fast, and the level that all of them were at and now are at — it just doesn’t even compare. You know, I think it’s getting to a point where it’s pretty horrendous and it’s an embarrassment to the league and the way it’s being conducted.”
Believe it or not, this was one of the nicer comments that has been said about the replacement refs.
For coaches, there have been multiple instances where altercations with the replacements have ended up in fines. Bill Belichek of New England, John Fox and Jack Del Rio of Denver, and Kyle Shanahan of Washington have all received fines for roughing up the replacement officials. There have also been far too many instances where the head coaches could be seen explaining the rules to the officials. For example, Andy Reid and Ken Wisenhunt’s debacle in the Eagles-Cardinals game, which is beautifully depicted here.
As a fan, it was impossible not to be appalled at how the games were being handled. As Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said:
“You can tell they miss a lot more calls than normal officials. They don’t always administer the penalties the right way. They say the wrong numbers, march off the wrong distance. All these little mistakes like that are obvious.”
There were multiple situations in the first three weeks where it is was even fair to sugest that the refs sealed the fate of a club.
During the week three contest between the Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions, a 15-yard penalty against the Lions was called in overtime. However, when the referees placed the ball after the penalty, they had given the Titans twelve extra yards. The Titans ended up kicking a field goal that drive and winning the game.
In the Eagles game against the Baltimore Ravens, the refs called a highly questionable pass interference on Jacoby Jones of the Ravens, negating a touchdown in the later half of the 4th quarter. The score would have been 30-17. Instead, the Eagles rallied to win the game 24-23.
After the Monday Night Football debacle, the agreement seemed all but inevitable. With one of the better teams in the league losing a game by a blown call on national television, there was no more hiding the ineffectiveness that had been plaguing the entire league on essentially every level.
News outlets across the country covered the story, Packers fans had begun protesting outside of their stadium, Chad Johnson even ate a live zebra at the San Diego Zoo to show his displeasure…ok that didn’t happen. But you get the idea. Things were at an all time low for a league that has been dominating sports culture for roughly the past decade. Commissioner Roger Goodell even made a statement saying, “We’re sorry to have put our fans through that.”
After enduring a rough three weeks, the real officials will be back to managing games as early as tonight and restoring order to the league. As we tweeted earlier, this will probably be the first and last time that we witness NFL officials actually getting a standing ovation. Until their first call against the home team, of course.