NFL's Replacement Officials Avoid Spotlight in Season Opener

Matthew ApplebyContributor IISeptember 6, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 05:  Referee Jim Core (L) talks with umpire Bob Shoulders during the 2012 NFL season opener between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on September 5, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

As much as Wednesday night was about No Doubt, Mariah Carey, the return of the NFL and the first game on a Wednesday in 64 years, it was equally about the debut of the NFL’s replacement officials.

The NFL and its officials are currently in a labor dispute over salary and retirement benefits, amongst other things. The two sides have yet to reach a settlement so the officials followed an increasing trend in the NFL and began a holdout.

The whole situation had the makings of a disaster waiting to happen.

After all, only one official in last nights game had worked Division I NCAA games, while the rest had experience at lower levels of football. No official had more than nine years experience.

No one was quick to give them a break, either. Fans, the media, players and color commentators from preseason games were all quick to point out the shortcomings of these replacement officials, while they rarely praised them for making correct calls.

In the end, head official Jim Core and his seven-man team consisting of Bob Shoulders, Greg Maxwell, Joshua Thurow, Thaddious Foster, Brian Stropolo, and Larry Babcock were able to avoid making headlines last night. For any official, no news is good news.

Core was able to announce penalties all night without stumbling through his words when addressing the crowd. He also made the right call when the Cowboys’ Jason Hatcher got his hands into the neck area of Eli Manning, forcing him to the ground after he had released the ball.

In the first quarter, the Cowboys tried to convert a fourth-down play by handing the ball off to fullback Lawrence Vickers, who was stopped just short of first down yardage. After the pile of players was sorted out, the officials correctly spotted the ball and the Giants took over on downs.

This is not to say the game was perfectly officiated, as there were some missed calls as well. But don’t be too quick to put the true NFL officials on a pedestal. They are far from perfect, and have made their fair share of blown calls and embarrassing crowd addresses over the years.

One of the more memorable gaffes last night came in the second quarter, when tied at zero, Eli Manning threw an incomplete pass intended for Victor Cruz around the goal line that was broken up by Orlando Scandrick. Replays showed the Scandrick hit Cruz early, but there was no flag thrown on the play.

Considering everything that could have gone wrong, the replacement officials handled their business professionally and without grave error. The officials did not play a major role in the outcome of the game, which is always priority number one for any official. The Cowboys may have won the game on the field, but by not becoming the storyline of the game, the replacement officials truly came out on top last night.

This is only one game, and there are many more blunders waiting to happen on Sunday, but for now, the replacement officials have held their own. Hopefully a deal with the NFL officials will be reached to ensure some level of officiating consistency throughout the year.

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