Ravens safety Bernard Pollard had plenty to say about the replacement officials on Thursday morning, and very little of it was kind. During an interview with the “Toucher and Rich Show” on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, Pollard ranted about how the officials are in way over their heads and blasted Roger Goodell for compromising the integrity of the game.
“These guys need to be out,” Pollard said. “I respect them as men — they were put in a position they can’t handle. But who is going to turn down an NFL officiating gig when you probably get paid more than you got paid in the lingerie league or whatever. Who is going to turn that down? But when it’s all said and done, the commissioner needs to do something about it.
“This is way out of their league. It’s too fast, guys are too crafty, and they cannot control the game. My issue is we have a commissioner that is jumping on board to hammer every other issue down in the NFL. He is jumping on board to get meetings with players when things are happening, but we have something on hand that is messing up the integrity of the league and nothing is being done about it.”
Most of you are probably sick of hearing about the replacement official situation in the NFL by now, but it is only getting worse. The officiating crew lost control of Monday night’s game between the Broncos and Falcons on multiple occasions. Knowshon Moreno fumbled in the first quarter and it was ruled that the Falcons recovered, despite the fact that a Broncos player came out of the pile with the football. A shoving match then broke out between the two teams and the game was delayed for more than five minutes while the referees figured out how to handle it.
Simply put, the game was a mess. There were a number of horrendous pass interference calls and utter confusion almost every time a flag was thrown. But if you think the NFL is feeling pressure to bring back its regular officials because of disasters like the one we saw in Atlanta, Steve Young says you had better think again.
The Ravens suffered a tough 24-23 loss against the Eagles on Sunday. Naturally, the replacement officials had something to do with it. Or least that’s how Joe Flacco saw it.
Flacco threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jacboy jones during the game, but the play was called back after an offensive pass interference call. Pro Football Talk pointed out that it was that play that seemed to irritate the Ravens signal-caller the most. After the game, Bart Hubbuch of the New York Posttweeted that Flacco told reporters the replacement refs are “affecting the integrity of the game.” He also said that he doesn’t want to “sound like a baby” but felt something had to be said.
While Flacco is no stranger to whining when things don’t go his way, he’s just one of a number of players and coaches who have used the replacement officiating crews as an excuse for losing — whether his complaint is warranted or not. Last week it was Aaron Rodgers, Mario Williams and Antonio Smith who sounded off.
How much longer can this last? Between the constant complaints and even conflicts of interest in certain situations, the NFL has to be feeling the heat while its regular officials sit at home and enjoy the show.
Brian Stropolo was scheduled to work Sunday’s game between New Orleans and Carolina as a replacement official, but the NFL pulled him from the game on Sunday morning after it was discovered that he is a Saints fan. The alternate official who travels with the crew will work the game in his place.
Stropolo is from Louisiana and is open about being a Saints fan on his Facebook page, which features several photos of him in Saints attire. The NFL was not made aware of his allegiance to the Who Dat nation until ESPN brought it to their attention Sunday morning.
Stropolo posted pictures of himself tailgating in Saints gear at an Aug. 25 preseason game on his page, where he is listed as an NFL side judge. According to ESPN.com, his status updates have been littered with comments from Saints fans such as “Hey, be nice with those yellow flags for our Saints!”
Another day, another player unhappy with the replacement officials for the way they called a game over the weekend. While I’m sure many of you have already grown tired of hearing the whining, Aaron Rodgers at least kept it unique with his complaints during an interview Jason Wilde on ESPN Radio in Wisconsin. Unlike some players who have blamed the officials for their lack of production, Rodgers cited a specific call that resulted in a huge play for the Packers against the Niners.
“They’re under a lot of scrutiny, and the ones we had last week deserved the scrutiny,” he said. “You have to understand the rules. It’s just frustrating when you’re positive that there’s either a missed call, or that the rule was not interpreted the way that it’s supposed to be interpreted.
“Anybody who watches the TV copy, I mean I saw it from the sidelines, but we scored a touchdown on a legit block in the back. I don’t know what happened on that. It has to hopefully get better.”
Rodgers was referring to Randall Cobb’s punt return for a touchdown. The officials initially threw a flag for an illegal block in the back before picking it up and allowing the touchdown to stand. They should not have picked it up. Of course, it’s easier for Rodgers to admit it after the Packers lost the game. Had they won, he may not have wanted to admit that they won with the help of the officials.
While I personally feel that a lot of the mistakes being made by the replacement refs have been overblown, they have had their fair share of unacceptable screw-ups that could have affected the outcome of games. The more superstars like Rodgers speak out, the more power the officials who are currently locked out will gain.
Mario Williams is expected to have a major impact in Buffalo this season. On Sunday, he was a nonfactor. The man the Bills signed to a $100 million contract over the offseason had only one tackle. The Jets completely had their way with the defense Williams is supposed to anchor this season, smashing the Bills 48-28.
Naturally, it was the replacement officials’ faults that Williams put up a stinker in his debut.
“Pass blocking doesn’t consist of illegal hands to the face just about every play, which, when somebody tells you that, and you’re five yards away from it, and you walk away like you don’t see him telling you you’re getting punched in the face every time, then that dictates somebody like myself having to take care of that on my own,” Williams said according to ESPN.com. “There’s definitely, with the situation that we’re in with the refs like that, and then you don’t listen or you don’t call it one time out of 20 that were out there. That’s really disheartening from that point.”
Williams’ biggest beef with the officiating crew seemed to be that he was crying the entire game and nobody was listening.
“I had some things going on, so I stayed on the left side, but it’s just one of those things where you tell somebody from the beginning of the game — and it happens, one time that’s on me,” he said. “But when it’s multiple times and I tell you and honestly you act like you don’t hear me throughout the whole game, I think that’s a big problem.”
While the replacement officials have certainly made some bonehead mistakes already, listening to players use them as an excuse for poor play has already gotten old. There were plenty of moments where the officiating crews looked lost on Sunday, but let’s not pretend the guys who are on strike used to get it right every time.
While everything replacement referee-related seemed to go smoothly in the opener between the Cowboys and Giants on Wednesday and in the early session of games on Sunday, the replacement officials were noticeably bad in the second half of games on Sunday. There were plenty of missed calls in the 49ers-Packers game, and the most embarrassing moment came in the Seahawks-Cardinals game when the refs gave Seattle an extra timeout.
On a 2nd and 10 from the Cardinals 13, Doug Baldwin dove for a pass in the end zone and landed on the ball after nearly making a touchdown catch. He appeared to have the wind knocked out of him and he laid on the ground for a minute. The Seahawks had one timeout left at that point, and it was used as an injury timeout since the game was inside the two-minute warning. After the injury timeout, the Seahawks were out of timeouts. Except the refs somehow gave them one, perhaps incorrectly ruling that they should not have been charged with a timeout because there was an incomplete pass on the previous play.
Here is the exact rule that applies based on the NFL’s rulebook (PDF):