To anyone watching the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Green Bay secured a much-needed road win by hauling in a game-saving interception by M.D. Jennings as time expired.
To anyone watching the game.
To anyone waking up on Tuesday—or any day from now until the NFL ceases to exist—they will look at a box score and see that Seattle won the game on what could only have been a miraculous last-second catch in the end zone by Golden Tate to defeat Green Bay 14-12.
Only that's not what happened. That cannot be what actually happened. We were watching. The NFL cannot try to tell us our own eyes no longer work. Roger Goodell is powerful, but he's not that powerful.
This is the play that nobody will forget. The replacement officials put in place by the NFL—by Commissioner Goodell—are so unprepared for the speed and pace of an NFL game they have consistently called into question the integrity of calls being made on the field.
This time, the NFL's negligence has cost Green Bay a victory, and it has cost the league an incredible amount of trust the fans should really never give back.
The NFL is trying to tell us we cannot trust our own eyes anymore.
We cannot watch a play and see replay after replay and believe that what we are seeing is the truth. One NFL replacement official signaled timeout, a usual indication the ball is a touchback after an interception. The other inexplicably called the play a touchdown. The head referee, after what felt like an eternity of confusion and delay, agreed with the baffling call of touchdown.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll pumped his fist at the call. The rest of America put our heads in our hands.
This was one of the worst calls we will ever see decide a game. Sure, people are throwing out this notion of "simultaneous control" on the play—the football equivalent of the tie in baseball going to the runner—but replays clearly showed Jennings had the ball before Tate tried to rip it out of his hands. There was nothing simultaneous about it.
The officials blew it, and that's the NFL's fault.
Whichever side you agree with in the NFL's labor dispute with the referees has no bearing on what happened in Seattle on Monday night. The regular referees did not assign these overmatched, underqualified officials to police NFL games. The league did this.
The NFL went out in an effort to keep the money train chugging along through the regular season and hired any independent, NAIA or high school referee they could find to dupe us into believing they could call an NFL game. Smack a logo on their hats and nobody would be the wiser, right, Commissioner Goodell?
Hey, they fooled me. Through the first weekend's games, I thought the NFL replacement referees were just fine. They were worse in Week 2, and anyone could tell it was an issue that needed immediate attention.
The league didn't care about what was happening on the field, though. They have a bottom line to protect.
Now, in Week 3, the NFL has cost one team a win, handed victory to another and potentially reshaped the playoff picture in the entire NFC.
The NFL and these horrible replacement officials aren't fooling anyone anymore.
How in the world can this officiating crew work a game on Thursday after such a horrible, high-profile mistake? How can they ever work again for the NFL? How many replacement referees can the NFL afford to replace?
The prevailing opinion on social media immediately after this debacle is that Commissioner Goodell and the NFL have to figure out a way to get the regular officials back in time for games next week, but even if a deal is struck in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, can the regular officials be in game shape in time for Week 4?
How long will we be stuck with these fake, incompetent referees?
Let's remember, the NFL went from the best in the business to a duct-tape amalgamation of former college referees, NFL Europe retreads, high school officials and low-rent NAIA college referees who were barely trained enough to know proper NFL enforcement procedures.
This isn't like MLB hiring guys in Triple-A. This is the NFL bringing in officials who aren't even qualified to referee low-division NCAA games. You literally could find a dozen people in the stands of any NFL stadium in America who are more qualified than the officials the NFL has hired to call these games.
The NFL smartly put in place a measure to automatically review every scoring play for this season, and they still managed to destroy any integrity in "getting the call right" when they put that decision in the hands of a man who was only qualified to wear the white hat and go under a tiny hood because the NFL said he was.
How did the league approve a replay procedure that gave the responsibility to a replacement referee on the sidelines? It's bad enough these refs are missing the calls, but the NFL thought it made sense to let them handle the replays too?
Why isn't there a member of the NFL staff in every press box, reviewing games like they do in college football? Why isn't there a member of the NFL staff in a room in New York watching every game for reviewable situations and buzzing the referees when they want to take a look at something, specifically an outcome-changing play at the end of a game? (This should happen when the regular referees come back as well, by the way.)
Why doesn't the NFL have any accountability in these games? It's not like this is the first issue this season. If the officiating issues had been corrected after the first two weeks of the season, the league wouldn't have been in this mess.
If the goal is to get the call right, the league has created a system of checks and balances that has proven to be a colossal failure.
The NFL brought this on itself. If Roger Goodell has the power to suspend players he feels hurt the integrity of his league, he should look in the mirror and give himself a few days off to realize what this penny-pinching nonsense with the referees union has done to the game.
Oh, and let's not rule out one last point: We've established that most of these referees are working high school, semi-pro or low-level independent college games for little to no pay on a normal weekend. This year, they were put in a situation where they are paid a few thousand bucks a week by the NFL to call professional games until the well dries up when the regular officials return.
What's stopping a replacement referee from being on the take? Seriously, what's stopping a guy from making a lot more money for throwing an ill-timed pass interference flag or calling a play a touchdown when it was so clearly an interception?
Are we sure some of the replacement referees are just incompetent and not on the take? Is this what Roger Goodell wants us to be debating after three weeks? Are his referees incompetent, criminals or perhaps both?
This is what Goodell has done to his league. No Pete Carroll fist pump is going to change that for the rest of us.