With the NFL’s replacement referees, there has been a weekly array of uncalled penalties, downfield mayhem, illegal hits, uncertainty about the length of penalties and on Sunday a slapstick moment.
With 3:08 left in the first half of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree hauled in a pass at the Bucs’ 13. As refs are wont to do, this one threw his cap down to mark the spot at which he believed Ogletree had stepped out of bounds.
Of course, then Ogletree slipped on the cap as if it were a banana peel.
It was a silly moment, comic relief on a day when referee gaffes ranged from the mundane to the dangerous. Among the games drawing scrutiny:
Replacements admitted that they made two mistakes in Minnesota’s upset of San Francisco, twice granting Coach Jim Harbaugh challenges after he’d called timeout. In the Cincinnati Bengals-Washington Redskins game, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was marched off over 20 yards, not 15. (See Shanahan, Kyle.)
In one of the most frightening stretches since the series of helmet-to-helmet hits in October 2010, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub was hit so hard his helmet flew across the field (video here). He grabbed the sides of his head and knelt for a long moment. When he rose, it was clear that most of the problem was with his ear lobe, which suffered a great deal of damage when his helmet left his head.
“I felt fine. I just lost a piece of my ear,” Schaub said.
The injury to Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was far more serious. He was knocked unconscious on an illegal and unflagged hit. He remains hospitalized in stable condition. “Once again, the refs missed it, like they always do,” Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said.
Overall, there was a feeling that referees were barely in control, that at any moment the situation might deteriorate into a fight, as Cris Collinsworth notes during the New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens game.
When will NFL owners — the responsibility for this lies with them, not Roger Goodell — realize what a mess games continue to be? When TV ratings drop? When people tire of watching refs hash out their calls? The lockout is already affecting the quality of their TV product.
“To be honest, it’s gotten hard to watch at times,” Randy Cross, a former offensive lineman who now is a CBS analyst, told the New York Times. “The game has gotten so much faster in recent years with more passing and more scoring and more pace that this just feels really slow. It isn’t what fans are used to.”
The games are, on average, 10 minutes longer, Trey Wingo reports.
And the telecasts aren’t nearly as smooth. From the New York Times’ Sam Borden:
While many fans might think of the officials as simply judges making decisions, when it comes to working in the N.F.L., the officials are intimately involved in production, serving almost as co-directors of the advertising bonanza that is an N.F.L. telecast. They are responsible for keeping the game moving, getting the ball back in play and transitioning seamlessly in and out of the network-imposed commercial breaks that must be taken, lest a high-cost sponsor not get exactly what it paid for.
“The officials are essential to a smooth telecast,” said Fred Gaudelli, the veteran producer of “Sunday Night Football.” “The referee and the back judge, in particular — if we’re all on the same page, it’s going to look good. If we’re not, it’s going to be disjointed and leave a lot of people scratching their heads.”
H/T Shutdown Corner