Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL appear ready and willing to begin the 2012 NFL season with the replacement officials who have called every game so far this preseason.
But the chorus of complaints from coaches and players continues to grow louder as the ongoing contractual dispute between the league and the NFL Referees Association drags on.
During Sunday’s Broncos-49ers game, Denver coach John Fox was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he challenged a play that is not reviewable. But according to Fox, he was simply challenging the spot of the ball on a turnover and the officials misunderstood him.
“They were wrong,” Fox told the Denver Post. “I was actually challenging the spot. They recovered it, and last time I looked, if you’re on offense and you get the ball back, that’s not a turnover, so you can challenge that. I was actually challenging the spot. I don’t know what they said.”
Both Fox and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh were shown yelling at the officials during the lengthy delay that followed the play.
Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has never been one to bite his tongue, and over the weekend he took to Twitter to write what many players are probably thinking this preseason.
The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs. These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it's kind of embarrassing.— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) August 25, 2012
The tweet came after a Vikings-Chargers game marred by blown calls that forced both coaches to pull out the challenge flag in situations when the call on the field was clearly wrong. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has the details here.
As Kluwe wrote, sure, the replacements are trying hard, but retired referees and call-ups from other levels of football who have never called NFL action are inevitably going to struggle.
Green Bay safety Charles Woodson said he withheld judgment before the preseason, but like many players, he’s seen enough.
“They haven’t been very good,” the 15-year veteran to USA Today. That’s the honest opinion. Before preseason started, I think you’re optimistic. But it’s almost like a young guy coming into the NFL. The game goes too fast for them.
“Now, could they go through a season and get better? Sure. But there’s going to be a lot of bad officiating going on until they catch up to the speed of the game.”
Never have more players, coaches and fans longed to be re-united with Ed Hochuli’s biceps and Mike Carey’s straight-as-an-arrow first down signals.
Should the NFL really allow this continue into the season instead of settling with their referees? And if it does, how might the replacement refs affect play on the field when the games count?