September 20, 2012
NFL needs to bring back real referees before somebody gets hurt
By JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency
How much longer should the NFL go with its $600- and $700-an-hour replacement refs?
That's like asking, "How much longer do you want the worldwide recession to last?"
Both disasters can end any time now, thanks.
After a mostly gaffe-free opening weekend, things began to crumble like cookies in the mail in Week 2. The replacement refs truly did suck.
Players and coaches are becoming more vocal about it, too. Denver Broncos head coach John Fox didn't have much voice left to lose before Monday night's game in Atlanta. He put his remnants in jeopardy when he screamed incessantly at the replacement officials for repeated blown calls, or mistaken walk-offs.
Worse, Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard told a radio station that replacement officials "are star-struck. I understand they respect us as players, but when you step on that field you can't be bullied ... When you make one of those calls, you point with power, with integrity, and these guys don't have it."
Who can blame any coach or player for spouting off? Yeah, the replacements are human. Yeah, they're over their heads -- way over their heads.
But when average fans -- let alone coaches and players -- can point to instance after instance of misapplied rules, mistaken penalty walk-offs, or flags not thrown until a player or coach screams, well, these jamokes aren't earning their money.
And for their five-hour game-day shifts, the replacements are pocketing either $3,500 (referees) or $3,000 (linesmen, back judges, field judges and the like).
The longer the regular officials are locked out, the more likely it is that a crucial call will be blown in a game that will affect who makes the playoffs. That not only would make the NFL look ridiculous; it would be a disgrace that would be talked about for years.
If this all feels redundant and boring, apologies. But I'm burying my main point here.
What would be catastrophic in all this is if the concern raised last month by the NFL Players Association transpires. That is, if the safety of players becomes compromised and someone gets seriously hurt.
I think we're closer to that than most people realize.
The NFL game is so much faster than anything these lower-division college refs have ever officiated, their heads can't keep up with it all.
When it comes to judgment penalties -- such as pass interference, or personal fouls -- they seem to be erring on the side of not throwing a flag.
That's something I originally endorsed, too.
I was wrong.
The problem is, after four pre-season and two regular-season games, the players have figured out exactly how far they can go in every facet of the game. Including baiting, and dirty play.
Has there been more of the latter this season? Absolutely. The Washington Redskins-St. Louis Rams game devolved into all sorts of after-the-whistle scuffles and even punch-ups, few of which were flagged.
Longtime NFL coach Mike Shanahan, now of the Redskins, said the replacements lost complete control of that game.
And as I and others reported Sunday, frustrated Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali allegedly twisted the head of one Buffalo Bills linemen on one play, then tried the twist the arm off another (as it were) on the next -- with no flags. Three Bills players took it upon themselves to dive on to Hali after the second incident.
"We're not just gonna sit back and take it," Bills centre Eric Wood said. "If they want to take shots at us, we're going to take 'em back at 'em."
And so it will go.
If a player gets seriously injured as a result of the escalating violence, well, the last thing the NFL needs this year is another lawsuit.
Pick up the phone, Roger.
SPEAKING OF WHICH
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was beaten up pretty good by the Rams last Sunday in St. Louis -- and some of it was even legal.
RGIII told the Washington Times Wednesday the Rams "were doing a lot of dirty things" to him.
"I still think they have an extremely good team," he said. "That doesn't take anything away from them. But the game was unprofessional.
"Who am I to talk? I've barely been a pro for very long, but from what I experienced (in Week 1) against the (New Orleans) Saints to that game, it was definitely unprofessional, and it does need to be cleaned up."
The Times says a TV camera caught Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar give Griffin a forearm to the head after a legal hit on the quarterback.