Sept 24, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Referee Wayne Elliott (28) speaks with field judge Richard Simmons (102) before making a ruling on a call between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

The Replacement Refs Aren’t the Problem….

Everyone is basically criticizing the replacement referees that the National Football League is using while the regular referees try to hash out a deal to continue working.  Even President Barak Obama is taking time out of his day to “bag” on the referees.  If you go to and look at their story listings, there are at least a dozen stories on how bad the replacement refs are.

Do I agree that the games are being called a little loosely and not as efficient or accurate as the games that would be called with regular referees?  Sure, I agree but not many of you know the truth about the replacement referees and why it is so difficult for them to call these games as accurately as they should.

In my past experience as a general manager of a semi pro football team, each semi pro league does not operate under the same rules of the game.  And to clarify, there are different rules of the game.  College rules differentiate from the NFL rules in many aspects.  The clock stops in the NCAA after a first down is made, while NFL keeps the clock running.  Downed runners in the NCAA only have to touch the ground, whereas the NFL player has to be touched by another defender.  These are just a couple of examples of rules that have been noticeably challenged in the last few weeks of professional.   My first team that played semi pro football operated under NFL rules.  The next team I was GM for operated under NCAA rules because we played in a different league.  Why did we change from a league with NFL rules to NCAA?  It was quite simple, we had more missed or botched calls during that first season because we were asking referees that officiated high school games to conform to professional football rules, which was something that were not accustomed to.  It’s kind of like putting the square peg into a circle.  It didn’t fit and we had many times that the officials would halt the game to pullout their NFL rules to clarify things.  The next football season, when we switched to a league that had rules that were more accustomed to calling with we had fewer problems with the officials and were able to enjoy a relatively good season.

Which brings me to my point of this article, these guys are doing the best they can under the circumstances that they were given.  Not given much notice to prepare and study up on the rule differences, we are overly criticizing a group of people who are doing their best.  Some of the calls made such as the call made where the official called a touchback instead of putting the ball on the 5 yard line, I’m sorry but that’s nerves.  I challenge you to think about it for a moment, some of the replacement refs are in front of crowds of 2,000-3,000 people in some instances.  Many Division II football games don’t draw the 75,000-90,000 crowds quite like the NFL games do.  Some of these referees are going from the Division II football environment to the professional.

So put yourself in their shoes, it’s not an easy job already but to be put in this position.  It’s really not fair to those guys that are trying to do their best.  Public criticism is, in my opinion, blaming the wrong people for the poor calls.  If we want to really point a finger, how about pointing it at the regular refs who are holding out.  They are putting some of these games in real jeopardy of getting out of control.  The game on Monday night saw a hit by a Seattle Seahawk DB that turned into scuffle with the Green Bay Packer receiver.  Granted both of them should have gotten the penalty but if the referees should have talked to the head coach or removed the player from the game, in my opinion.  There have been too many hits such as the one Sean Lee took from the same Seahawks a week ago.

Every time frustration sets in at the officials, just remember square peg going into a circle.

My last thought though is this, once the regular refs return these guys will be tossed to the side like many of the replacement players were in the 1980’s.  Believe it or not, there a few of those refs that deserve to stay at the professional level and probably won’t get the opportunity because of all of the negative press.

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  • Linda Hummel Harris

    All I can say to that is “what if”, What if the Packers miss the playoffs by one game?. We know the temp Refs are doing the best they can but it still affects the integrity of the NFL. I just hope the Regular refs are back real soon.

    • Hawk_Eye

      The Seahawks lost to the Jets back in 1998 on a last play bad call. Testaverde was down one half yard short of the end zone, but was ruled a touch down. This loss cost us a playoff berth and our head coach was fired. This was done by the regular refs. Where was all our love back then? None.

  • raz64

    “there a few of those refs that deserve to stay at the professional level and probably won’t get the opportunity because of all of the negative press”

    Nope. They won’t get the opportunity because the referee’s union won’t admit under-qualified pawns used by the NFL in an attempt to break their union. These replacements know this is their only chance to ref at this level.

  • Judy Daugherty Inman

    I totally agree with Linda! The Packers could very well miss the playoffs by one game and it would be the temp Refs fault along with the NFLs. NFL integrity is being affected drastically…soon, sales of NFL clothes and accessories will be affected. I’m sure the NFL really cares, but it is what it is!

  • Cowboyfan22HOF

    The NFL real refs are not “holding out”…they are LOCKED OUT by the NFL. Big difference. Blame the NFL not the Refs (real or replacement)

  • Jeff Magnia

    Good points…well according to reports the regular refs will be coming back soon!! And thank you Cowboyfan for the clarification. Raz you are right, they know the only chance they have is now. As far as Judy and Linda…you are right on about the integrity of the league being tarnished. I studied marketing extensively in college and can’t imagine the nightmare if it continued much longer.

  • californy

    The line between winning and losing is a lot more closer than people realise. The replacement ref even have the review to look at and even then they cant get it right. Already this weekend alone, NE and GB lost game they shouldnt of lost, despite error that would of change the winner of the game. There are some rules that must be changed like the goal post rule where if the ball travel above the goal post end it consider a good kick.
    I am glad the lock out is over, this way the business of football can be on the game verses what the Referees are doing on the sideline.