Ranking the Worst Replacement Ref Calls of the Preseason

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2012

Ranking the Worst Replacement Ref Calls of the Preseason

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    The NFL product is slowly on the decline thanks to a public spat between the regular referees and the league, which, as we all know, has led to the implementation of replacement referees to keep our favorite game moving along.

    These replacement officials are not your average referees. In fact, they are not even from the Division I-A level of college football. Some are Division II or below, and one is rumored to have been an official in the Lingerie Football League (via Deadspin).

    It's been a rough go for the scabs up to this point. They are slowly getting better, but it has become quite clear that no one on Earth can call an NFL game as well as the regular refs do.

    The only positive to come from this awkward scenario is that the miscues by the scabs have made for some wildly entertaining moments. Let's take a look at some of the best so far.

10. Not Knowing the Teams Playing the Game

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    This error is not as ground-breaking as the others, but it is a perfect example as to just how daunting of a task it is for replacement officials to call an NFL game in front of 40,000 or more fans and on national television.

    As the announcer aptly points out, lack of confidence and a sense of authority from the replacements means coaches, players and fans will have a hard time taking them seriously.

    Mixing up team names is not a huge ordeal, but combine it with the horrendous mistakes in the rest of this slideshow and there is a serious issue throughout the NFL.

9. The Game Played with Two Footballs

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    Now this is something that should never happen at the professional level.

    During a game in Miami in which the Dolphins hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the replacement officials were so horrible at communicating that at one point there were two footballs on the field.

    Not only did the players not know where to line up in the confusion, it also helped to lower the credibility of the scabs in one fell swoop.

    While it is true that the majority of these referees never even officiated big collegiate schools, it is a fundamental aspect of even Pop Warner football that the game is only played with one ball at a time.

8. Andrew Luck's Sliding Touchdown

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    Rookie phenom Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts took on the Pittsburgh Steelers recently, and the replacement officials struck yet again with a horrendous call.

    Luck and the Colts faced a 4th-and-goal near the end of the second quarter from the 1-yard line. The rookie QB faked a handoff and sprinted for the end zone. Luck pulled up and slid from the half-yard line into the end zone and scored a touchdown, at least according to the officials.

    The problem is, that was not a touchdown.

    When a quarterback slides, he immediately gives up the down at the point he began the slide. According to the official rule book, in this scenario Luck was down a half-yard away from the goal line and would have turned the ball over.

7. Multiple Errors in the Windy City

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    The Chicago Bears welcomed the Denver Broncos to town recently to play another meaningless game, but it turned out to be a perfect example of why replacement officials should not be allowed to participate in a regular-season game in any capacity.

    For beginners, one of the officials called a snap infraction on an offensive guard, which is, you know, impossible considering it is the center that snaps the ball and can therefore commit an infraction in the process.

    But that's not all.

    Later in the game the officials called defensive holding, which is not a big deal. A simple five-yard penalty in the NFL, correct?


    The referees decided to dock 10 yards off the offending party, a blatant error that would have never happened had the replacements been more familiar with the rule book.

6. The Out-of-Place Scab

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    Mardy Gilyard of the Philadelphia Eagles scored a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers after catching a pass and diving into the pylon.

    Except it was not initially ruled a touchdown.

    As even casual fans know, a player hitting the pylon indicates a touchdown, but the referee called Gilyard down at the 1-yard line.

    Why did the scab do that, you ask?

    The official responsible for breaking down the field and ending up with the player in the end zone to get a good view of the play pulled up and stopped running with the receiver and cornerback.

    He was out of position and could not see the pylon being hit, so he simply called the play dead at the goal line. Video review fixed the error, but it is still one that any of us could have gone out and called correctly the first time.

5. Interception or Incompletion?

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    The San Diego Chargers wasted no time in intercepting Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder recently in another game that does not matter.

    Problem is, the referees didn't see it as an interception, but an incompletion.

    The defender who intercepted the ball bounced into his teammate and fell backward while maintaining possession of the football. Even at live speed, the play was clear as day to anyone watching that it was a legal interception.

    Norv Tuner had to challenge the call to simply make the officials correct the error. We can forgive slight errors in live action like this from time to time, but making head coaches waste valuable challenges on something like this is unforgivable.

4. Phantom Pass Interference Call

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    A pass interference call is one of the most difficult plays for an official at an level to judge, so it would not be that ridiculous for a replacement official to make a mistake in calling one.

    Except in this video.

    Clearly the Carolina Panthers receiver turned around in an attempt to catch an awful pass. The Houston Texans defensive back continued to run and actually tripped into the end zone. The play was promptly flagged as pass interference.

    The fact that the penalty resulted in the Panthers moving up to the 5-yard line is the serious issue here. Calls like this are the exact reason that fans of our beloved game should be praying for an end to the referee lockout sooner rather than later.

3. The Illegal Hit Penalty That Went Unpunished

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    When the Dallas Cowboys traveled to San Diego to take on the Chargers in Week 2 of the preseason, it is a safe bet no one on the team thought he would get away with an illegal hit and keep the turnover as a result of the hit.

    However, that's exactly what happened.

    Chargers safety Eric Weddle was flagged for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on a Cowboys receiver. The hit caused the ball to pop up into the air and be intercepted by another Chargers player.

    As any fan would know, under normal circumstances the ball would be given back to Dallas, and the penalty would have been applied.

    Instead, San Diego was allowed to keep the interception and then have the penalty yardage applied.

    An inexcusable mistake, inexperienced referees or not.

2. An Extra (Illegal) Play for the New York Giants

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    Eli Manning was close to the back of the end zone against the Chicago Bears recently and threw the ball away when nothing developed downfield. As a bonus, a pass interference penalty was called as time expired in the first quarter.

    This wasn't your normal pass interference call. The Giants were awarded the ball at the spot of the foul as usual and then made to run an extra play with the play clock in the first quarter reading 0:00.

    Now, if this penalty had occurred at the end of either half, such action would have been appropriate. At the end of the first quarter, this was not necessary, and the Giants were awarded an extra play.

    Once again, these are meaningless games, but something like this is child's play compared to some of the more difficult calls these officials may have to make in the near future.

1. The Touchback That Wasn't

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    The Washington Redskins traveled to Buffalo to take on the Bills in this recent preseason matchup. Despite exciting rookies like Robert Griffin III and Stephon Gilmore seeing playing time, the replacement referees managed to steal the spotlight.

    In the video above, the Bills downed a punt around the 10-yard line. As any observer with an ounce of knowledge could tell you, the Redskins were to take over possession where the Bills defender downed the ball.

    Instead, the replacement referees called the play a touchback, insinuating that the football entered the end zone.

    The Bills ended up having to waste a challenge to overturn the laughably bad call.