Blowing The Whistle: Shoddy Officiating Mars Broncos-Falcons Game Monday Night
The first half of last night's Broncos-Falcons game "was a comedy of errors, starting with a pair of reversed calls," according to Chris Burke of SI.com, who wrote under the header, "Replacement Refs In Over Their Heads On 'Monday Night Football.'" The "real officiating travesty" took place late in the first quarter, on a fumble by Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno. After both teams "scrambled for the loose ball on the ground, one of the Broncos player came away from the pile with it." But the officials "already had signaled an Atlanta recovery, which stood" (SI.com, 9/17). In Atlanta, Mark Bradley writes the officiating in last night's game "was awful." The first half "lasted one hour, 48 minutes, and the inaction was largely due to the replacement refs ... having little idea what was what" (AJC.com, 9/18). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote the refs in last night's game "are an embarrassment." In an "ugly first quarter that lasted a full hour, the officials showed themselves to be completely incapable of keeping a game moving and keeping up with the fast-paced, stressful job that is officiating in the NFL" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/17). The AP's Rob Maaddi notes the officials in the second half of last night's game "got mixed up on where to place the ball" after a defensive holding penalty on Broncos CB Champ Bailey. The crowd "booed while the officials conferred, finally moving it a few yards forward to the proper spot." It was "those sort of delays that helped the game drag on for nearly 3 1/2 hours" (AP, 9/18). In Denver, Woody Paige writes, "A nation tuned in for a marquee football game and, instead, got WWE and Amateur Night." The NFL "should be ashamed, embarrassed and distressed." Broncos coach John Fox called the game, "Controlled chaos" (DENVER POST, 9/18).
LOSING CONTROL: Before the Falcons ran the next play following the Moreno fumble, there was a six-minute, two-second real time delay in the game. After the play, players began pushing and shoving, almost escalating to a fight. ESPN’s Mike Tirico said, “As we mentioned, yesterday the officials lost control of the Philadelphia-Baltimore game, among others, and a similar situation here after the controversy with this fumble.” He noted that as the officials tried to make the call on the fumble and the ensuing penalty for the altercation, there were “a lot of Broncos players crowding around the officials.” Gruden: “It’s taking a long time to organize justice here. ... The officials have to take control of this. They have to be emphatic about clearing these players off the pile, finding out whose ball it is. That one got out of hand. That could have gotten really ugly.” Tirico said the players after Week 1 “figured out what the parameters are with substitute teachers, and now they’re taking advantage of them whenever they can.” Tirico: “For all the people over the years who have complained about the officials in the National Football League, you gain a great appreciation for how good a job they did relative to what we’re seeing here over the last couple of weeks” (“MNF,” ESPN, 9/17).
CONFLICTING INTERESTS: ESPN’s Steve Young following last night's game said there are a "lot of people in the league that would rather break the union" than take care of the on-field product. Young: "There’s a lot of people who don’t feel like officiating is an on-field personality, they feel like it’s a commodity. But more importantly … there’s nothing that they can do to hurt the demand for the game, so the bottom line is they don’t care. Player safety -- doesn’t matter in this case. Bring in Division III officials. Doesn’t matter because in the end you’re still going to watch the game.” He added, "We’re going to all complain and moan and gripe and say there’s all these problems ... but it doesn’t matter. Go ahead, gripe all you want, I’m going to rest. Let them eat cake.” Young said if using replacement refs "affected the desire for the game,” the NFL would “come up with a few million dollars.” ESPN's Trent Dilfer said he was concerned about player safety and “it’s such hypocrisy by the league to make such a push for players safety the last four or five years and then allow this to happen.” Young: “If they cared, they wouldn’t do it.” ESPN's Bill Polian: “It’s a labor situation and when that occurs, all bets tend to be off” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/18).