Assessing the NFL's Refereeing

By Jason Fryer

Week 4 in the NFL is in the books and will always be remembered as the week that the Replacement Ref's were replaced by the original ref's. Once the dispute between the NFL and the Ref's was settled, the two questions that I wanted to see were:

What would be the response from fans and players around the NFL (especially in Green Bay) and how would the Ref's fair in their first NFL game in almost 8 months.

The NFLRA Ref's first took the field a few hours before the start of the Thursday Night game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Before the game, the Regular Referees made their grand return to NFL Sideline and were paraded with a standing ovation from almost everyone in the stadium (players and fans included). After that, the next question people wanted to see was the reaction from the people at Lambeau Field after the disastrous call made in Seattle which saw Packer fans protesting earlier in the week.

The Answer...a resounding ovation from the Packer fans. As the Referees came onto the field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, like in Baltimore they were celebrated, were flooded with cheers from the fans, greeted with handshakes from the Players of the NFL.

That's all sounds good but in the end fans, players, and coaches still want the Ref's to be at the top of their game and not cost their team a victory. So with that said, I wanted to look at the Post-Honeymoon games and examine a few mistakes the referees made during the Week 4 games.

Two significant call I feel the current referees missed this week were ironically shown in the Packers-Saints game. The first missed call came during the first quarter when Drew Brees threw a Touchdown to Marquis Colston in the left side of the endzone. The catch was indeed made however the replay clearly showed that Colston pushed off in the end zone which should have led to a Offensive Pass Interference call.

The second call the referee's missed clearly missed during Sunday's game in Wisconsin was after Green Bay scored a touchdown late in the 4th Quarter. New Orleans running back Darren Sproles was retuning the kick and fumbled the ball around the 30 yard-line. Even though the player was ruled down by contact the replay clearly showed that Sproles fumbled around the 30 yard line and Green Bay should have been given the ball back. Due to the fact that the Packers were out of challenges, they were unable to challenge the play on the field and New Orleans was able to retain position of the ball.These two plays could have cost the Packers the game and put them with a 1-3 record on the season.

Assessing the NFL's Refereeing
Sept 24, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate (81) holds on to the game-winning touchdown as time expires against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field. Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Charly Martin (14) and Green Bay Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush (24) and Green Bay Packers strong safety M.D. Jennings (43) look for an officials call. Photo Courtesy By Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE.

So what should have happened:

I feel the play should have been called a fumble on the field so the ref's could look at the play and not let either team lose a challenge over a play (all turnovers are reviewed) that was clearly called incorrectly on the field.

Were there other games that featured a number of noticeable missed calls or was this the only game that featured calls like this?

Well, the Monday Night Football Game between the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys featured one clearly missed call that included Brandon Carr and Brandon Marshall. On 3rd and Goal from Dallas' 4 yard, Cutler rolled out to his left and threw to Marshall for an incomplete pass, but the ref called for Pass-Interference in the End Zone which would have given the Bears first and goal from the 1 yard-line. Once the Cowboys saw a replay, Dallas decided to challenge the play on the field as they felt the ball was tipped allowing Carr to grab Marshall and move them him out-of-the-way. The review did show that a Cowboy did tip the pass so the Pass-Interference call was revoked, ruling no penalty on the field.

So where did the Ref's go wrong?

The ruling should have been holding in the end zone as Marshall's jersey was being held in the end zone throughout the entirety of the play, not allowing for Marshall to have a chance in the end zone.

So in the end, is it indeed a positive that the regular ref's have returned to the NFL?

Of course. However, a number of people need to remember two key characteristics about the NFL Ref's. One, the NFL Ref's will still make a number of mistakes as contrary to everyone's thought, the regular NFL Ref's will still make mistakes in the future. I hate to re-inform individuals but even the traditional Ref's have made mistakes. One of the worst calls of all time came during the Detroit-Pittsburgh game when NFL Referee Phil Luckett gave the ball to Detroit even though Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis correctly called the coin toss on the field.

Second, like NFL Players, Ref's need time to perfect their craft and get up to their usual level of calling games. A number of people don't want to hear this but everything takes time and like everyone, the Ref's get into a routine by having a schedule of what goes into their schedule from August until February. With the ref's starting last week, they were out of their comfort zone and people need to understand that the Ref's will still be rusty at the start of the season as the first few games are going to be their "Preseason." During the 2011 offseason, the NFL Players were taken out of their comfort zone and because of this it eventually lead to the best statistical passing season in the history of the NFL.

For these two reasons, people need to remember that even the current NFL Refs have made a number of mistakes in the past and will make mistakes continue to in the future (even if fans believe otherwise). The positive news is that as the NFL Ref's adjust to their previous positions, they will eventually get back to their previous level of calling penalties on the field. Hopefully fans of the NFL won't have to go through what happened on Monday, September 24th, 2012 in Seattle ever again.

Other NFL Referee Lockout Articles

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