One of the focal points of the 2012 NFL preseason has been the issue of the referee lockout and replacement officials. The general consensus is that it's an unmitigated disaster that's going to cause the Earth to spin off of its axis. Of course, that's an over the top comment which is exactly what a lot of the hand wringing about the replacement officials has been.
I've watched over half of all the preseason games this season so far and there isn't a game where the officials have made me incensed to the point of ranting about them and we all know how I love to rant.
There is no doubt that the replacement officials have botched and missed some calls, often taking too long to decide on what to do on a given play, but the vast majority of the media has already decided that these officials are dimwits who can't do anything right.
Gary Myers of the New York Daily News wrote about the replacement referee issue and went a bit over the top.
You know players are going to be testing these officials to see how much they can get away with during a game, whether it's pass interference, holding or illegal shots at the quarterback. The threat of the flag is an excellent deterrent to a defensive end coming helmet first into a quarterback. If an elite quarterback suffers a concussion on a violent hit that is a direct result of the defensive player believing he can get away with more because of the substitute teachers, then that's a big problem.
Call me ignorant, but I'm struggling to think of how replacement officials lead to more injuries. If, in Myers assertion, players are going to take more cheap shots or illegal hits to test the replacement officials, isn't that on the players for doing so and not the officials? Not to mention Myers assertion that if an elite quarterback takes a concussion on a late hit, because the player believes he can get away with it, is somehow the fault of the official? Huh?
"There is a certain element of player safety involved," former NFL VP of officiating Mike Pereira said on Wednesday. "It's a deterrent to taking the extra shot when a guy like Ed Hochuli is there. I've seen plenty of hits in the preseason where the helmet is used to hit the sternum of the quarterback and doesn't get called."
And again, isn't this the fault of the players for trying to get away with illegal hits? Pereira also says this as if normal officials don't often blow these calls themselves. How many times did we see David Garrard or Michael Vick take a shot that is a personal foul if the same hit is done to Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?
As mentioned before, the biggest problem with the replacement officials is that most people have already decided they can't do anything right, so every missed penalty or blown call is hyper-scrutinized, more so than any normal official would be. We keep hearing about how these replacement officials are going to blow a call that costs a team a game during the regular season... sort of like Pereira's example referee, Ed Hochuli, did in 2008 in a game between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers.
Or, like the official in a matchup between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears in Week 1 of the 2011 regular season. A win that helped the Bears earn home field in the playoffs.
Or, like the Super Bowl matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks, which saw some of the worst officiating I've ever seen.
Or, like when the referees blew an obvious fumble by New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw dead inside his own 20 with nearly two-minutes left in a tie game in the 2011 NFL Playoffs.
If you want to sit back and nitpick every bad call and magnify it, you can even do it with the regular officials. Sure, the replacement officials have been a mixed bag through the preseason, but they're guys learning on the fly. An agreement needs to be made between the NFL and the official's union to get a deal done, but can we stop acting like it's the worst thing ever known to man?
I just hope that there will be this much focus on missed a blown calls when the lockout ends for the regular officials, but I strangely doubt that will happen.