NFL Replacement Referees: Revealing Background Info on Officials

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2012

NFL Replacement Referees: Revealing Background Info on Officials

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    After seeing the most atrocious call in NFL history, fans of the sport they love have been torn all week over the injustice witnessed Monday night on national television.

    It was on a Hail Mary pass in the Seattle Seahawks 14-12 win over the Green Bay Packers that receiver Golden Tate was judged to have come down with the ball to win the game.

    Upon further review, it is clear that the Packers' defensive back M.D. Jennings had possession of the ball before Tate ever got his hand on the ball. According to the NFL rulebook, if the referees call it a simultaneous catch in the end zone, the receiver gets rewarded with the catch and it is reviewed.

    The mistake on the field is one issue, but the fact that the officials didn’t overturn this call is one of the greatest injustices in NFL history.

    I'm bringing forth information about these replacement referees in the hopes that the NFL will see the folly of their ways and allow the fanbase to get back to complaining about the normal officials.

    If the call to end the referee lockout wasn’t loud enough already, America is now screaming.

    Mr. Goodell; tear down this lockout wall.

Couldn’t Cut It in the Lingerie League

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    While the common jest to a referee from the fans is that they aren’t qualified for their job, the real, locked-out NFL officials have gone through intensive training and have years of experience.

    That’s not the case with these replacement referees.

    Current NFL alternate official Craig Ochoa formerly worked for the Lingerie Football League (LFL), but was dismissed for poor performance.

    LFL commissioner Mitch Mortaza was shocked when he heard one of his old officials was working with the NFL and told Yahoo! Sports why that employee was let go:

    It was a bit of a shock to see guys that couldn't officiate in our league were officiating in the NFL…The entire crew was released due to several poorly called games which included missed calls, poor judgment and poor presentation for broadcast. They were hurting our overall broadcast caliber. And if it's opening up our players for potential injury, those things raise red flags here. When either of those two things are compromised, it's time to start thinking about parting ways.

    What does it say about the caliber of job the official is doing when he was fired from the LFL and could possibly work NFL games?

    Ochoa has only worked preseason games so far in 2012, but he is one sickness or injury away from being called up to the big leagues and holding power over multi-million dollar companies.

    Smooth move, NFL.

They’re Fans Like Us

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    While no one knew who side judge Brian Stropolo was before a few weeks ago, he has become one of the key faces in this whole replacement official fiasco.

    The Associated Press is reporting (via Sports Illustrated) that Stropolo was removed from potentially working a New Orleans Saints game in Week 2 because it was discovered that the replacement official was a die-hard Saints fan.

    You’d think that would have come up during the interview process, right?

    One of the biggest parts of this equation, that fans sometimes forget, is the impact that gambling has on the NFL as a business.

    With potential questions about replacement referees also being fans, it is opening Pandora’s Box in terms of gambling conspiracies. Just look at the money that shifted because of Monday's call (via ESPN).

    The NFL can’t afford that.

Fantasy Football Anyone?

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    There is no doubt that a person must love football and be a fan of the sport to be an official, but they can’t flaunt allegiances in the open; they have to be impartial to be successful as a referee in the NFL.

    That likely means no playing fantasy football, and if they did, the real officials certainly wouldn’t tell one of the league’s star players that they had him on their team.

    Unless you’re a replacement referee!

    McCoy told 94WIP Philadelphia’s Anthony Gargano and Ike Reese about how the referees talked to him about their fantasy football league:

    They’re like fans, kind of though. I’ll be honest, they’re like fans. One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team, like ‘McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy,’ ahhh, what?!

    While the whole situation is so silly that it is laughable, the grim realization that these officials are not unbiased hits hard; you have replacement officials with possible agendas controlling these games.

    This is a bad situation that keeps getting worse.

Too Cool for School

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    At least the NFL was prepared for this referee lockout and properly trained the replacement officials in a timely manner.

    Wait, none of that happened?

    Instead of being prepared for the job of being a replacement official at the highest level, the latest report from Jim Corbett of USA TODAY Sports is that the side judge that made the touchdown call in Monday’s robbery, Lance Easley, wasn't talented enough to become a Division I college official.

    Stars and Stripes Academy for Football Officials leader Karl Richins told Corbett the following about Easley’s time in his school:

    I got to know Lance at a June academy I worked at in Reno and when he came to my academy in July. He's a very polite, good Christian gentleman, a good father to his son, Daniel, who was at my academy as well. But was Lance ready to work at the NFL level? Absolutely not.

    The academy is to teach officials how to work Division I college football games, but the fact that this man wasn’t even good enough for that is all the evidence of incompetence the NFL should need.

    If they want more proof, though, I have some incriminating footage from Monday night.

America’s Most Wanted

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    Most fans that are outraged by the crime that took place Monday night have been looking for information on the replacement officials that cost the Green Bay Packers a win.

    While we shouldn’t blame these referees because they are doing the best job they can, that doesn’t excuse the fact that they are getting the calls wrong and costing NFL teams much-needed wins.

    After Monday Night Football, all of the following men have become America’s Most Wanted.

     

    Wayne Elliott, head referee and ring leader

    While the initial call on the field had nothing to do with Wayne Elliott, this was his crew and the official review comes down to whether or not he can overturn the call.

    Elliott screwed up.

    In case you were wondering what qualifies Elliott to be a head referee, he is the Executive Secretary for the Austin Football Officials Association.

    Somehow, that doesn’t make it any better.

     

    Derrick Rhone-Dunn, back judge and only sane member of the staff

    The only official on the field with a shred of common sense Monday, Derrick Rhone-Dunn is the referee that called the Hail Mary a touchback, signaling that the ball was intercepted by Green Bay and that the game was over.

    We also call that, "The Correct Call."

    According to Sports Illustrated, Dunn was a former Arena League official, and Referee.com has the back judge listed as an official for the 2007 Sugar Bowl between LSU and Notre Dame.

    It’s not the NFL, but at least it is big-game experience.

     

    Lance Easley, side judge and the brains of the operation

    If you didn’t hate the official that called touchdown from Monday night, Lane Easley, already, you will find the fact that he was seen clubbing (via CBS 47 Sports Director George Takata) after the game maddening.

    Joe Bailey of the Santa Maria Times is reporting about the referee’s experience and full-time job:

    Easley had no prior professional or major college football experience before this season. He works as a banker here in Santa Maria. He was the only member of the officiating crew with no professional experience.

    In other words, this guy shouldn’t have been anywhere near a Monday Night Football game.

     

    Check back for more on the National Football League as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s NFL page to get your fill of all things football.