Not Better, Just Regular


Bryan Flynn

Watching the last two weeks of preseason games, I have decided that NFL fans have been hoodwinked, bamboozled, had the wool pulled over their eyes ... well, you get the idea.

Unless you don't watch football—or you live under a rock—you couldn't have missed the announcers saying that the NFL is using replacement officials. If you were watching the New Orleans Saints play the Jacksonville Jaguars last Friday night (Aug. 17), you heard Tim Brando rail against those replacements.

Brando almost made the game unwatchable. One of his major complaints was the number of replay reviews, but he failed to mention that replay officials asked for every replay.

The night before, during the Atlanta Falcons-Cincinnati Bengals game on Fox, former head official Mike Pereira explained that replay officials were the regular replay officials, not replacements. Although part of the official referees union, the replay officials have a separate collective-bargaining agreement.

Replay officials look at every touchdown and turnover (fumbles and interceptions) in the game, and every play in the final two minutes of each half. The NFL started reviewing touchdowns last season and started reviewing turnovers this season.

Every game will have turnovers and touchdowns that someone needs to review. Now, did the officials at the Falcons-Bengals game get the reviews right? I'm not sure, because the few plays they reviewed were 50/50 plays that could have been upheld or reversed.

Brando also complained about the length of the game, but it wasn't the longest, not even of that night. I had the Saints game on one TV and the Baltimore Ravens vs. Detroit Lions game on another. The Saints game ended, and the Lions-Ravens game was still going. I listened to the Saints' postgame show, while I watched the ending of the other game.

His comment shows that Brando doesn't know that preseason games often go longer than regular games. Teams put more players on the field in the preseason, and play normally slows down.

Since the preseason began, I have seen tweets by Peter King about how bad the replay officials are and an Ashley Fox article on ESPN.com about how the NFL needs to bring back regular officials. I feel I have to remind King, Fox and anyone else who thinks the regular officials are so great that they are wrong; all they are is regular.

Remember how those regular officials blew a coin toss in overtime on Thanksgiving Day in 1998 in a game between the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers? The Steelers' Jerome Bettis called tails on the overtime coin flip (on a mic on national TV), and official Phil Luckett said Bettis called heads. Detroit took the ball and scored to win the game. That same year, officials missed a Jerry Rice fumble in a playoff game that cost the Green Bay Packers a win against Rice's San Francisco 49ers.

Now, I know what you are thinking: "Bryan, those were two calls in 1998. This is 2012, and these guys are terrible."

Let's break it down some more:

Ed Hochuli's bad call in 2008 screwed the San Diego Chargers and saved Jay Culter from a fumble as the Denver Broncos won. This is a guy Fox says the NFL needs back—right now.

How about the regular officials blowing several calls in Super Bowl XL between the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers? We need those guys back?

The bad calls go on and on. How about the 2002 playoff game between the New York Giants and the 49ers? And even the NFL admitted that the officials missed a couple of roughing-the-passer calls on Brett Favre against the Saints in the NFC Championship where they played the Minnesota Vikings in 2009—the year the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Finally, I have four words for you (Raiders fans, hide your eyes): the Tuck Rule Game.

The whole argument about how great the regular guys are just doesn't seem to make sense to me. How can about 120 people out of more than 300 million people in this country be the only ones qualified to officiate an NFL game?

Another big complaint about replacement officials is that the speed of the game in the regular season will overwhelm them. Well, most NFL officiating crews are mainly mid-aged or older white guys. Are those guys the only people with eyes good enough and in the best shape to call NFL games? Heck, there isn't one woman on the regular NFL crews, but does that mean a woman can't officiate in the NFL?

Hell no.

Folks, it doesn't matter if the NFL is using replacement officials or regular officials, because bad calls are going to happen no matter who is officiating. That's right: No matter who calls the games, they are going to make mistakes. Why? Because officials are human.

Not only am I an honesty broker, I am solution oriented as well. So, to solve potential bad calls, I propose giving coaches three challenges per half and the ability to challenge penalties.

But, even with my fix, mistakes will occur, because humans still make the calls.


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