NFL Referee Lockout: Biggest Winners & Losers of the Replacement Ref Era

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst ISeptember 26, 2012

NFL Referee Lockout: Biggest Winners & Losers of the Replacement Ref Era

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    Based off a number of published reports, the framework of a deal between the NFL and the locked out NFL Referees Association is close to being agreed upon. 

    According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, negotiations have escalated over the past week and appear close to having a resolution. 

    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.

    An agreement in principle is at hand, according to one source familiar to talks, although NFL owners have postured with a "no more compromise" stance.

    We must caution that no deal is currently in place. There are still issues to iron out before the two sides can craft a deal that would be agreed upon in principle. Last summer's negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association provide recent reminders about how these labor problems are handled, especially once a deal gets close.

    But considering how far apart the two sides appeared to be as recently as two weeks ago, and the fiasco that has become the NFL's officiating with the replacement refs, any significant progress like what was reported Tuesday is a welcome sign. 

    The replacement ref era will officially come to an end when the two side agree upon a deal. 

    Here's a list of winners and losers from a time in NFL history that was darker than it should have been. 

Winner: Real Referees

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    In all labor negotiations, both sides ultimately have to give up a little to find mutual ground. The original referees likely did just that in that in this possible agreement.

    But considering the speed in which the NFL has budged from its previous hard-line standpoint, the refs likely gained more than they originally thought they would after a disastrous start to the 2012 season with the replacements.

    And not only will the refs be better compensated through this deal, but they'll have a newfound respect from all NFL fans once they are back at work.

    The real refs are still far from perfect, but the horror show that was the four-week replacement experiment has earned these guys some leeway moving forward. 

Loser: The Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers took a bullet to help save the league's officiating crisis.

    That shouldn't take away from the fact that this team still lost a game it should have won because of the replacement officials. 

    Even with a pending deal in place, no improvement in the officiating moving forward can reverse or remove the loss that stands in the Packers' 1-2 record. 

    A silver lining coming out of the gut-wrenching loss only goes so far to ease the collective deprivation. Luckily for Green Bay, a majority of the remaining 13 weeks should be officiated by the right referees. 

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seattle Seahawks have no reason to apologize for their controversial win.

    There's few who doubt the NFL mostly gift-wrapped their second victory of the season by having unqualified referees on the field. 

    The refs have made poor calls that impacted games throughout the three-week regular season, but no team other than the Seahawks was granted a win because of such a disastrous performance.

    Seattle now stands at a confident 2-1, with wins over potential NFC playoff teams in Dallas and Green Bay. We'll see if Monday night's win has any drastic playoff implications down the road in 2012.

Loser: Fans

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    There's no doubt the fans are one of the biggest losers in this entire replacement ref experiment. 

    These are people who spend a lot of hard-earned money and hours upon hours on the game of football. Regardless, the NFL was completely content with putting an inferior product on the field week-after-week. Fans deserved a lot better from the best sports league in the world. 

    The NFL really should apologize to the fans once this is officially over. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers did so Tuesday on his weekly radio show with ESPN 540, but Roger Goodell should be planning something similar for the second this deal gets done. 

Final Losers: Roger Goodell and the NFL

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    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spent a majority of his time atop this sport trying to promote player safety and protecting the shield, but this replacement ref fiasco has mostly drained him of any goodwill his previous acts gained.

    The fans and media alike have lambasted Goodell for his handling of the situation, and the replacement ref's awful performance over three weeks has made a population of the NFL's fan base very suspicious of the league's overall officiating.

    That kind of damage can be irreparable.

    Maybe this whole deal will be forgotten down the road, maybe not. But Goodell and the NFL are clearly losers no matter when this agreement gets done.