The NFL's lockout of its officials has come to annoy us all. Here's what the staffers here at TGS think about the whole conundrum.
Brad Gagnon) Let me start by stating the obvious: The NFL should be extremely embarrassed by this entire ordeal. That on principle alone they've jeopardized not only the integrity of the game as well as the health and safety of the players is hard to fathom. We're talking about nickels and dimes in the league's coffers here, so there's no way this is financial. They clearly made the wrong call, thought it would go over smoothly, and now are too entrenched/stubborn to admit it was a bad decision.
Lawrence Dushenski) We just can't stop watching. No matter how bad the officiating is – or perhaps in a state of morbid curiosity to see how bad it bad get – we will continue to watch despite the current squabble between the officials and the league.
It escalated once again this week, with a chorus raining down upon the officials during the Pats-Ravens game. One official’s hat almost took out Kevin Ogletree in Dallas. Endless complaints from the most respected players. Belichick put his hand on an official. Little Shanny in Washington berated one down the tunnel.
But we still watch, and probably more now than ever. Without looking at any numbers, there is surely a possibility that some people have actually tuned in to see the terrible officiating. No one ever turns in to see Hochuli.
Our favorite team is still playing. Fantasy matchups continue. Spreads are still backdoored.
So why would the league rush to give the officials everything that they want when they see that the consumers are not turning away. They say no publicity is bad publicity, and the league could be running with that motto as far as they can take it.
The idea was bandied about last week that a likely conclusion to this standoff would be a majority of the officials banding together to form a majority and decide to accept whatever deal is on the table. There are surely hardliners like in any negotiation that would oppose this, but at this point the officials have limited leverage.
We said it would take a big injury that was the fault of the officials. It would take a blown call in a big game that was clearly wrong.
People continue to go on and on about the integrity of the game, but the league is clearly of the view that nothing is being tarnished. Advertisers are still lining up to pay small ransoms for thirty-second spots. We have not heard of any major corporations pulling their advertisements because the integrity of the league has been compromised.
Does the "integrity" of the on-field competition really matter to the league anymore anyways? The sport has evolved so much off the field and into the digital spectrum, that the actual penalties being called on the field have become low a list of priorities of the league.
They care about growing the sport and the league around the world, providing community assistance across the nation and putting on biggest spectacles in sport imaginable. If an extra flag gets thrown here or another concussion is suffered, little sleep is lost of money burnt in the grand scheme of things from the leagues perspective.
Another argument has been that the health and safety of players is being brought into question with the replacement officials on the field. But have there been any injuries in the first three weeks of the season that have been clearly the fault of the official?
There may be some missed calls on plays that should have resulted in major penalties, but the plays still took place and would have in the same way with the other officials in place as well. There have been a few skirmishes during games where things were close to getting out of hand, but the players are professionals and not looking to throw down and injure themselves.
No fights have happened, no one has been knocked out because the ref closed his eyes for a few minutes and no one has been injured due solely to the actions of a replacement official.
But it is just nickels and dimes to the league, but why would the league pay up if they believe they will win? No one made it into the ownership world of the NFL by giving money away just because it was a few nickels and dimes. The league has their stance and they seem adamant that they will not cave.
Enough about integrity, enough about injuries and money.
We keep watching, so the league is happy to stay where they are. I would not be surprised if the league actually hardened their stance due to the amount of attention the issue is getting.
No one is talking about the games anymore, but rather the calls in the game. It creates a dialogue and sustains the media cycle into the next week of games. There is always a controversy to fill the airwaves with, and at this rate, we could be in for a long haul.
Derek Pease) The NFL has reached a point where its arrogance and ego have pushed it so far beyond narcissism that it might as well create a new state with huge statues on every corner of every street that just has Roger Goodell saluting with a certain finger extended in the air.
It’s own version of Hunger Games, the Goodell Games, if you will.
The league insists that it is always going to do what is in the best interest of the game, the players and the fans. Yet for three weeks, the game, the players and fans have had to endure a group of people who have no understanding of what the rules of the game are and therefore are putting the integrity of the game and safety of players at risk.
There isn't enough time in the day to list all the terrible calls we saw just this week alone, from the 49ers seemingly being granted five timeouts in the second half against Minnesota to Darrius Heyward-Bey being assaulted with a helmet-to-helmet hit and not having a penalty called.
There is no flow to the game with these officials. There seems to be a dustup after every whistle. In September of 2012, NFL players are like high school students taking advantage of substitute teachers. They are pushing the limits. They are pushing one another. Sometimes they even shove the officials.
Yet as we get more and more frustrated with the calls, or lack thereof, we are seeing on the field, it is important to remember where to direct the anger and frustration.
Goodell and his band of merry men.
This is yet another case where Goodell and the will of the owners is controlling the game. I understand that the NFL is a business, as are all sports, and you have to do what is the smartest move, financially and for the product on the field, for you.
Anthony Brown) I will contribute $100.00 to a fund to pay real NFL officials to return to the game.
Owners locked out for months players who fans pay to watch. Who pays to see the nameless faces that regulate the game? That's like watching meter maids write tickets. Not on my car. Not on my player. Not on my dime. The NFL counts on that.
Game officials are supposed be unnoticed. When they inject themselves, it is to call penalties understood by any fan over age 12. We know how an infraction is going to be called, and we know the penalty that is to follow. We watch videos and can be reasonably certain how the replay official will interpret it. Predictability is part of the mental exercise that makes football enjoyable. Predictability is not a commodity.
Fans know good officiating when they see it. We do not know the names of the cops on the field unless an official has a long history of excellence to merit multiple playoff assignments, like former NFL referee Jerry Markbreit, or the now lockout Ed Hochuli.
Hochuli's famous gaff in a 2008 Chargers-Broncos game was the exception that proved the rule of uniformity by real game officials. It used to be rare that an inadvertent whistle and blown call changes the outcome of a game. Now, such gaffs are common in every game. Fans resent replacement officials, but we do not blame them.
The NFL is within its rights to lockout employees as part of labor negotiations, just as it has the contract right for its commissioner to rule on bad behavior by players. The clear impression, however, is that the league is going beyond protecting its interest and is goading its employees. The owners are in for a major blow-back on that someday.
The officials have little bargaining leverage with the NFL Management Council. They need a Hail Mary play. I suggest they decertify its own union and merge immediately with the NFL Players Association.
Will Horton) I find the referee lockout curious, because at every other step Roger Goodell has taken pains to preserve and polish the on-field product, to make it more consumable. He has done this primarily by clamping down on player behavior, going ham on fashion code violations, unauthorized face time (i.e. removing your helmet on field), and touchdown celebrations that highlight the individual over the game.
By locking out the referees though, he is sacrificing his first line of quality control of the on-field product. No one can pretend that the replacements are anywhere near as good at controlling games, let alone getting actual calls right and wrong (something that regular refs have a hard enough time with). And the players and coaches are taking full advantage. The result is an uglier game that even the most straight-faced commentators have a hard time disguising.
Goodell is getting hammered on all sides for putting money above the game, but the two have always gone hand in hand. The better you package the game, and the more aggressive you can be in preparing it for many formats, the better you can maximize your revenue. Thus we have unparalleled online access, innovations like the Red Zone channel, and the transformation of the NFL Draft from a back-room conversation to a three-day extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall.
The first person to realize this was perhaps Steve Sabol, the founder of NFL Films who is being eulogized this week as Goodell is being excoriated. But it's hard to imagine how NFL Films will package such embarrassments as the Seattle Seahawks "win" over the Green Bay Packers, without bringing the replacement referees into the picture.
I believe that Goodell, for his warts, cares about the quality of the game. However, he has also been a good soldier for the owners, and there is where the blame squarely lies. The owners are clearly fighting an ideological war rather than a financial one with the weaker referees union. Perhaps they are desperate for a clear "win" after not getting one against the players last offseason.
Or perhaps they are just greedy idiots, by and large, who don't give a damn about "quality," players, fans, or even the integrity of the win-loss column.
Shane Clemons) It appears as though the lockout of the NFL officials will be over in the not-so-distant future, but even so, damage has been done. In my opinion, the league came out of the player lockout looking like the good guys, or at least as close to not the bad guys as they could get. That isn’t the case now. The owners do care about the product they present, but only to the point that it influences how much money winds up in their bank accounts. It’s always been about the money, but we finally have concrete evidence the fans aren’t a major consideration. Locking out the refs pushed very few people away, and the owners know it.