Through the first two week of the NFL season it seemed as if the replacement referees would be a nuisance, but nothing more.
Until Week 3.
One of the most memorable weeks in NFL history was so for all the wrong reasons as the officials' incompetence stole the show.
Here we take a bitter walk down memory lane in this timeline of Week 3's replacement referee nightmare.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
One of the first cases of poor judgment this past weekend came in Sunday's matchup between the Detroit Lions and the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
The officials awarded the Titans 27 yards on a 15-yard personal foul penalty after marking the ball from the Detroit 44 rather than the Tennessee 44 where the play had originated from. Tennessee would go on to score the game-winning field goal on that drive.
The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt was quick to joke about the referees' blunder on Twitter the next day:
Witnessed two Hail Mary's this weekend. The #Titans sinned vs. Lions. The replacement refs need to go to confession after this one...— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) September 25, 2012
In Minnesota, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was given a timeout he shouldn't have been against the Vikings in order to challenge a play.
Thankfully, it didn't assist the Niners and the Vikings held on to win 24-13 at home.
In Sunday afternoon's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, the replacement refs missed an obvious helmet to helmet hit on Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Oakland would go on to win on a last-second field goal but so much for the NFL's interest in player safety.
The drama continued on Sunday Night Football. In a game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens that featured 24 penalty flags, the outcome was determined by a controversial made field goal by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker.
Pats coach Bill Belichick then grabbed one of the officials as he ran off the field following the call.
Belichick drew plenty of criticism for his actions but who can blame him for his frustration with the unqualified officials?
Monday, September 24, 2012
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees had harsh words for the NFL regarding the replacement referee situation after his team fell to 0-3 on Sunday.
In a radio interview the next day Brees called the replacement officials an "embarrassment" (via NFL.com's Marc Sessler):
I think it's getting to a point where it's pretty horrendous and it's an embarrassment to the league and the way it's being conducted.
Then came Monday Night Football.
With the entire United States tuned in to watch the Green Bay Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks, the replacement referees turned the incompetence up another notch.
Correct calls were few and far between in this game. Whether it was a bogus pass interference penalty, or a horrific roughing the passer flag, the officials ruined what should have been another awesome MNF matchup.
By far the most egregious error of the night, week and season though came on the game's final play.
What will go down in the record books as a Russell Wilson touchdown pass and a Golden Tate touchdown reception was anything but.
This meme of the two replacement officials signaling different results defines the referees' confusion that has plagued the NFL since the start of the 2012 season.
If there was a tweet among the billion or so out there that best wrapped up Monday night's debacle, it was this one from Sports Illustrated's Peter King:
One of the great disgraces in NFL history.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) September 25, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Drew Brees wasted little time Tuesday morning, taking to Twitter early to criticize the NFL:
Ironic that our league punishes those based on conduct detrimental. Whose CONDUCT is DETRIMENTAL now?— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) September 25, 2012
This meme was fitting for what many NFL fans were wondering Tuesday morning after catching Monday night's unbelievable outcome on SportsCenter.
Here's another popular meme that sums up the replacement referees' constant confusion down on the field.
Arizona Cardinals defender Darnell Dockett laughed out loud at Roger Goodell and NFL for their hypocrisy via Twitter:
This is what the NFL has come down to, &yet they tell you to respect the shield! Lol. But they'll try to fine us for everything thing we do.— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) September 25, 2012
Dockett's Cardinals teammate Patrick Peterson urged the NFL to bring back the locked-out officials on Twitter:
Com'on can we please get the real refs back. Destroying the game that we all grew to love. WOW!!!!!!— Patrick Peterson (@RealPeterson21) September 25, 2012
After the indefensible injustice that went down on Monday night, the NFL released a statement on Tuesday that only added fuel to the fire (via NFL.com).
While the ball is in the air, (Golden) Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.
When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.
Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.
The result of the game is final.
So, to summarize the statement, the referees blew the call on the field, and then somehow managed to do the same after reviewing the play on replay.
Why have replay then?
No NFL fan, not even Seahawks supporters can be happy about the state of the league after Week 3's tragic officiating. The referees routinely blew calls and mixed up simple rules. That can't happen.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported some uplifting news on Wednesday (via ESPN.com):
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association made enough progress in negotiations Tuesday night that the possibility of the locked-out officials returning in time to work this week's games has been discussed, according to sources on both sides.
Ed Hochuli is perhaps the most famous of the National Football League's 121 regular officials, and if a new contract with the locked-out officials gets done within the next 24 hours, American football fans will owe him a debt of thanks -- because the prep work of Hochuli will be a key for the real refs to hit the ground running, starting with Sunday's 13 NFL games.
With poor judgment becoming a trend in America's game, we can only hope this nonsense ends soon.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter where the refs can't hurt you.