NFL Replacement Referees: Who Is Really to Blame for the Poor Officiating?

Matt Present@@matt_presentContributor ISeptember 25, 2012

The NFL replacement refs credit a game winning touchdown to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, despite the fact that he did not have posession of the football
The NFL replacement refs credit a game winning touchdown to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, despite the fact that he did not have posession of the footballOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

What some are calling the “inaccurate reception,” a Hail Mary pass, which appeared to be an interception by Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings, was ruled a touchdown, credited to Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate in the Seahawks 14-12 win last night on Monday Night Football.

Not only did Tate not have possession of the ball when he hit the ground, but his egregious offensive pass interference on the play went uncalled. In the minds of fans nationwide, this play served to be the final strand in the complete unraveling of the NFL this season.

But who is really to blame? The replacement officials? The NFL officials on strike? Or the NFL?

Well, in my mind, it’s certainly not the replacements. As terrible and incompetent as they seem, they are the victims. It was only a matter of time before their phantom yellow flags and additional timeouts turned into costing teams the games. These refs are coming from Division II college football, the Arena League, and even the Lingerie Football League. They are like substitute teachers—unsure of the rules and incapable of enforcing them.

The regular NFL officials went on strike after the NFL refused to give them sufficient raises when the collective bargaining agreement expired following the 2011 season. According to, the officials were offered between a five- and 11-percent increase, far less than what other team and league employees were getting paid. Paying the officials would have no negative affects to the NFL owner’s very healthy bank accounts. However, they refuse to back down.

Still, the referees aren’t hurting for cash, either. Not only do most officials referee as a second job, but first-year officials made on average $78,000 in 2011, and 10-year veterans made an average of $139,000. In addition to the greater percent of salary increases, the officials want better benefits, and they want to keep their current pension plan. The NFL wants to replace pensions with a less expensive 401(k) plan, in addition to implementing methods to hold referees more accountable for the calls they make (unfortunately, they don’t seem to want to do the same with the replacements).

Unfortunately, there is little incentive for the NFL to give in. Every football fan in America is going to tune in to watch their favorite team play on Sunday and is likely to also watch the prime-time games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, regardless of who is wearing the black and white striped uniforms. No matter how bad the calls are or how out of hand the game gets, NFL stadiums will still be packed.

So as painful as it is to say, the worse the calls get, the greater the chances are that the NFL will act as a result of bad publicity. So come on, you blind zebras, you Foot Locker employees, continue to show off your incompetence with pride—continue to make the soap opera that the NFL is becoming such a disgrace that even Roger Goodell finds it unwatchable!