No More Mr. Nice Guy: Replacement Refs Ripped By Media, Coaches, Players
Using replacement referees during the first week of the NFL season "was one thing," but now in Week 2, "we've seen just how incompetent these officials are," according to Ashley Fox of ESPN.com. Players and coaches "gaining an edge over the underqualified and overmatched officials has led to problems on the field." Players are "griping on the field," while coaches are "getting frustrated." The overall product is "taking a hit." Fox: "No one should have to pay money for speaking out about the train wreck that the performance of replacement officials has become" (ESPN.com, 9/18). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy asks, "What gets settled first -- the NFL dispute with its officials, or the NHL lockout? I’m betting the NFL resolves its labor problems with referees after Monday night’s Denver-Atlanta debacle." Last night's game was "truly unwatchable" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes the officiating "is not watchable," and the replacement refs' performance in Sunday's Redskins-Rams game "was a travesty." With the "weekly gaffes and blunders, the league's image is taking a real hit" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18). The AP's Rob Maaddi writes, "While some of the mistakes on Sunday were judgment calls ... the more egregious errors appear to be misinterpretations of rules." Feisty play also was "a common theme around the league." Players are "seemingly getting away with being more physical, especially after the whistle" (AP, 9/18). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes, "Hey, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. We beg you to stop this madness before there's a riot on the field among angry, 300-pound men in helmets." The NFL is "too dangerous to be policed by officials without a clue" (DENVER POST, 9/18).
NO RESPECT FOR OFFICIALS: ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser noted there was "thuggery on the field from the opening kickoff" in a lot of Week 2 games, and the referees "cannot control the athletes.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said players and coaches "don’t have respect for the guys calling the games” ("PTI," ESPN, 9/17). SB Nation’s Bomani Jones said the “biggest problem” the replacement officials have is “no one respects them.” ESPN’s J.A. Adande noted the regular officials "are prone to making mistakes, but they’re still not going to lose control of the game to the degree that these replacement refs have done.” Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said the current refs are "letting them do too much” and compromising player safety. Cowlishaw: "Players have figured out after Week 1 we can do things after the whistle. ... Something is going to happen badly for some player as a result of this” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/17). In San Antonio, Buck Harvey writes the NFL "has escaped national embarrassment in its first two weeks," but "it's coming." Sunday "showed there is a tipping point, which is why the NFL needs to fix this." Players also are "reacting with a wild-west approach, and this might be the most dangerous aspect." The refs "don't command the respect to stop a game from turning into a bench-clearing brawl" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/18). ESPN’s Trent Dilfer said of the replacement officials, “The whole thing’s out of control” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/18). ESPN’s Cris Carter: “You always talk about ... the NFL shield, the logo. ,... They're not doing that because there’s no way that these guys should be reffing an NFL game" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 9/18). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto asked, "If it’s so hard to reach the NFL why is it so easy to be exchanged for day-workers, fan boys, railyard hobos and accordionists?" Ratto: "Why do the owners ... insist on replacing the irreplaceable and calling the new ones just as good?" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 9/17).
FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that the Rams "should have been penalized" for DE Robert Quinn's helmet to helmet hit on Redskins TE Fred Davis in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game. Shanahan: "Well, obviously, the flag (needed to be thrown), there’s no question about the flag. It’s helmet to helmet. So there’s no question about the flag, but there wasn’t” a penalty called (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/17). Ravens LB Ray Lewis said, "The time is now. How much longer are we going to keep going through this whole process? I don't have the answer. I just know across the league teams and the league are being affected by it. It's not just this game, it's all across the league. And so if they want the league to have the same reputation it's always had, they'll address the problem. Get the regular referees in here and let the games play themselves out." He added, "We already have controversy enough with the regular refs calling the plays" (AP, 9/18). Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall said of Sunday's game against the Rams, "I had never been part of anything like that before. I’ve played a lot of football in my years, and I’ve never been part of a game that was that chippy, just so much extracurricular things going on after the play" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/17).
MISDIRECTED HOSTILITY? In Newark, Steve Politi writes, "Refereeing is a thankless job under the best of circumstances, and clearly these are not." Every single call is "scrutinized, and even if the majority of them are good, the ones that aren’t (and there have been plenty) instantly find themselves on an endless loop on ESPN." Politi: "The bigger villain is Roger Goodell, who would diminish his multibillion-dollar industry and put his players at risk to save a few million, and not guys like [replacement ref Jim] Winterberg (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/18). USA TODAY's Kevin Manahan in a front-page piece writes, "The outrage after these chaotic games -- marred by blown calls and unpoliced cheap shots -- has led many players and coaches to call for an immediate end to the three-month lockout" (USA TODAY, 9/18).
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Mason Levinson reported the NFL is "investigating the behavior of its replacement officials on social media websites" after the league pulled Brian Stropolo from Sunday's Saints-Panthers game (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 9/17). ESPN.com's Katie Linendoll wrote, "Fans are turning to the Internet in droves to express their discontent -- to put it kindly -- about some of the questionable calls." Twitter, Google and Yahoo! each "report a pretty staggering increase in NFL/referee chatter and searches." This week, Yahoo! "reports that popular searches include 'NFL referee salary,' 'NFL referee replacements' and 'replacement refs'" (ESPN.com, 9/17).
WHAT ABOUT THE REAL REFS? In L.A., Sam Farmer reports "there are no meetings scheduled" between the NFL and the NFLRA. The L.A. Times "obtained a memo sent Friday to the locked-out officials from their union, detailing -- from the officials' perspective -- the negotiating positions of both sides." The document "urges the officials to 'remain calm even in the face of adversity' and reminds them they are 'committed to doing what's right and fair.'" The memo "goes over the financial terms of what the officials are seeking, and what the NFL has offered to this point." The document indicates that the "last negotiations took place Sept. 1, and the NFL offered to add $1 million annually to total compensation over seven years" (L.A. TIMES, 9/18).