There is a big problem happening in the NFL right now. Truth be told, there are many problems with the game right now, but the biggest issue in the league is one that it seems to have no interest in solving anytime soon: replacement officials.
The NFL has reached a point where its arrogance and ego have pushed it so far beyond narcissism that it might as well create a new state with huge statues on every corner of every street that just has Roger Goodell saluting with a certain finger extended in the air.
The league insists that it is always going to do what is in the best interest of the game, the players and the fans. Yet for three weeks, the game, the players and fans have had to endure a group of people who have no understanding of what the rules of the game are and therefore are putting the integrity of the game and safety of players at risk.
There isn't enough time in the day to list all the terrible calls we saw just this week alone, from the 49ers seemingly being granted five timeouts in the second half against Minnesota to Darrius Heyward-Bey being assaulted with a helmet-to-helmet hit and not having a penalty called.
Virtually everyone out there is tearing the referees to shreds any chance they get. Just hours after the New England Patriots lost to the Baltimore Ravens, Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe wrote a scathing critique of the job the officials did:
There is no flow to the game with these officials. There seems to be a dustup after every whistle. In September of 2012, NFL players are like high school students taking advantage of substitute teachers. They are pushing the limits. They are pushing one another. Sometimes they even shove the officials.
Yet as we get more and more frustrated with the calls, or lack thereof, we are seeing on the field, it is important to remember where to direct the anger and frustration.
Adam Schefter of ESPN did a hit on Sunday NFL Countdown talking about the process of bringing back the regular officials if the league is able to reach an agreement—saying that the earliest they would be back is Week 5—and detailing a letter sent from the NFL Players Association to the owners. The NFLPA said:
Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order safety and integrity. It is lost on us how you allow a Commissioner to cavalierly issue suspensions and fines in the name of player health and safety, yet permit the wholesale removal of officials that you trained and entrusted to maintain that very health and safety.
This is not a problem of officiating, though when you are in the moment of watching a game it is certainly frustrating to see so many dumb mistakes being made. It is a problem of the NFL, Goodell and the owners having far too much power.
As long as it serves their interest to keep the regular officials locked out, nothing is going to change.
All the anger and frustration of everyone playing, coaching or watching NFL games feels towards these officials should not be directed at the field. These replacement referees have been thrown into a situation they were not properly prepared for and had no experience with the rules or speed of the game.
These officials come from the lowest of low levels of college football or the Lingerie Football League. If you needed open-heart surgery, would you want someone who had been doing the procedure for years or someone who was treating animals at the local vet?
No, this is yet another case where Goodell and the will of the owners is controlling the game. I understand that the NFL is a business, as are all sports, and you have to do what is the smartest move, financially and for the product on the field, for you.
Until that happens, everyone involved in playing the games or watching the games is 100 percent right to vent their immense frustration. Just make sure it is being pointed in the right direction.