The NFL had hope that using replacement officials wouldn't lead to a drastic change. The owners had hoped that they could continue negotiating with the NFLRA while the replacement refs did a serviceable job.
That's not the way it's panning out.
Replacement officials are quickly becoming the league's biggest liability. On Thursday, replacements incorrectly called a punt downed inside the 5 yard line a touchback. It wasn't even close. After a coach's challenge, the call was corrected.
In last night's Giants, Jaguars game, the officials were anything but organized and on point. On the Giants' opening drive, a Jaguars defender held a receiver's hand down, preventing a touchdown, and a pass interference penalty wasn't called. Later, the Jaguars were called for grabbing the quarterback's facemask, extending a Giants drive. The problem was that a facemask was never grabbed, not even close.
Aside from completely botching penalties and spotting the ball, replacement officials are also having trouble finding their voice. The lack of demonstrative whistles and signals is leaving fans, coaches and players in the dark. Knowing the rules of the professional game doesn't seem to be the problem. The problem is that these officials simply aren't the same elite quality officials we're used to seeing on the field.
The NFL's lockout of the NFLRA is beginning to affect the game in a negative way. The simple answer to the problem is for the NFL its own officials, but labor agreements are never that simple. For the first time in the lockout, the league's officials have real leverage. The game isn't being officiated at an acceptable level, and everyone knows it.
The proper thing to do is really quite simple. The NFL and the NFLRA need to begin meeting in good faith on a regular basis. The two sides need to stop the rhetoric and get a deal done. If the NFL cares as much about the fans as they would have us believe, they need to put competent officials on the field that have the experience necessary to officiate a professional game.