The replacement referees made a very bad call on a Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate. The ball appeared to have been intercepted by M.D. Jennings, and one official ruled it a touchdown while the other ruled it a touchback. The play was reviewed and ruled a touchdown and the Seahawks stole the game from the Packers.
This was the worst case scenario for the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Not only did the replacement referees decide a game but they also might have given the real officials all of the leverage in their negotiations. Players, coaches and fans are disgusted with the replacement officials, and if a deal is not reached soon, nobody knows what will happen.
But the lockout of the officials is not the only problem Goodell has been dealing with since he became commissioner in 2006. The league locked out the players last year, and although regular-season games were not missed, the lockout gave a black eye to the league's reputation.
The commissioner's office has also been under fire for suspending current and former New Orleans Saints' players and coaches in a bounty scandal without releasing any evidence. Goodell is now facing a defamation lawsuit from Jonathan Vilma for publicly prejudging Vilma for being the ring leader in the bounty scandal. A report from Brett Martel of the Associated Press says that the league has asked a federal judge to block Vilma's request to release this evidence.
Sounds a little fishy doesen't it?
The last two seasons have been very dramatic for the commissioner's office. Aside from the two lockouts and the Saints bounty scandal, the league is also facing over 140 concussion lawsuits from former players.
Since new technology and studies have emerged about concussions, the NFL has made several rule changes in the past few years to try to prevent these injuries. For example, the league moved the kickoff five yards up to the 35-yard line, essentially eliminating the play from the game. Officials now penalize players for head-to-head contact, whether it is intentional or not, and the league has put up an invisible wall around the quarterback.
These rules are great for player safety, but these changes are hurting the quality of the game. There is a new gray area in terms of whether a hit was deserving of a flag or not, and even the actual officials have made ridiculous roughing the passer and late hit calls. The nature of the game can only be changed so much, even if it does help player safety.
The NFL could face a gigantic financial burden if these lawsuits were to win in court. According to an article by Glenn Wong of Sporting News, the NFL could lose over $10 billion.
Unfortunately, football is a physical sport and players should be aware of that by the time they reach the professional level. This is not the case, and as the lawsuits keep rolling in, the physicality will continue to be taken out of the game. It is scary to think about because the physical gladiator mentality is what makes football unique in comparison to the other American sports.
The NFL could turn into the Arena Football League if Goodell isn't careful.
This might be a little outlandish, but it is certainly possible and scary to think about. The response to the Seahawks and Packers game on social media was as crazy as can I remember, and it wasn't positive feedback.
So let's recap: since Goodell became commissioner in 2006, the league has dealt with lockouts of both the players and officials, a bounty scandal which has led to a defamation lawsuit towards the commissioner for providing a lack of evidence, a number of lawsuits from former players and many rule changes that have taken away some of the physicality of the game.
I'd say Goodell has a lot on his plate, and that's an understatement.
Last week, Goodell sent out a memo to league owners, general managers and coaches, warning them to respect the officials and to respect the integrity of the game.
But Goodell has disrespected the game by allowing these replacement officials to take the field. He has disrespected the players who play this game, the coaches who coach it, and, most importantly, the fans who consume it.
Goodell's reputation has taken a hit through the lockouts. He embarrassed himself with the suspensions of the Saints players without providing any evidence. Now he faces legal issues from Vilma and former players which could suck the league's revenue dry and turn the league into an empire turned obsolete.
A change may be needed at the top of the NFL in order to save the league from a tailspin. Goodell has failed the players and coaches. The fans are angry, and if Goodell and the NFL cannot fix these issues, the league could fade away into the abyss.