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Personnel foul: Fans penalized by replacement refs

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Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 12:05 am

Whether he’s dealing with player discipline, team scandals or referee contracts, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell often ignores sound reason and does things his way. Now the NFL is now paying the price of the commish’s arrogance. By refusing to pay the real referees off-the-field, America’s favorite sport is now suffering on it.

I’m not even sure where to really begin. Goodell’s diabolical plan to write-off its officials as replaceable almost worked. Officiating in Week 1 was manageable. but in Week 2 the wheels fell off.  The games were chocked full of blown calls, angry coaches, near-brawls and overall ineptitude by the officials. It was painful. It was embarrassing. It was a shame.

St. Louisians had front row seats to the worst of it Sunday afternoon. A game that should have highlighted superstar-in-training Robert Griffin III facing the team that traded away his rights for the first time, instead will be remembered for its boxing-referee rejects. The home team, not known for being an offensive juggernaut, was robbed of two touchdowns by the hapless officials. In the first-quarter, Brandon Gibson made a difficult and spectacular catch in the end zone, just barely scraping both feet in bounds. The pass was ruled incomplete. For some reason, Jeff Fisher declined to throw the challenge flag. Six points down the drain.

Later, the Rams were on the short end of the stick for two consecutive plays. First, Steven Jackson was charged with a fumble when the ball was clearly jarred free after he was down. Despite the fact that NFL rules state that all turnovers should automatically be reviewed, the refs clearly didn’t study that page of the handbook and were prepared to hand the ball off to RG3 and company. Fortunately Fisher used his challenge flag to get the play overturned, even though technically it was an illegal challenge. But again, the rulebook is a point of strength for these officials. Jackson seemed to score on the very next play. Referee disagreed. No challenge. No touchdown.

Don’t blame the officials. After all, it’s hard making the calls without the help of the yellow lines on TV and the insightful commentary by the announcers. Who knew?

While those calls hurt the Rams, there were several others that hurt the game. Bad yardage spots, inconsistent personal fouls, ignored pass interference calls plagued both sides. Players and coaches got aggravated as the game went on. Pushing and shoving ensued. By the third-quarter, there seemed to be a mini-MMA fight after every other play. The officials’ complete and utter lack of control ultimately helped decide the game. Riled up due to the game’s “chippiness,” Redskins receiver Josh Morgan made a late-game catch that put the Redskins into game-tying field goal position, but then lost 15 yards due to a personal foul after hurling the football in retaliation to a shove by Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan. The Redskins lost by three.

The Edward Jones Dome wasn’t the only stadium to host awful officiating. Monday night in Atlanta, Denver Broncos coach Jon Fox looked like his head was about to explode several times after puzzling calls by the officials. The primetime game’s flow was destroyed by officials conferring over every meaningful call, yet they still managed to get several of them wrong. In New Orleans, an official was pulled just before the game because the league found out the Louisiana native was a die-hard Saints fan. To make it worse, the league had no idea until ESPN sent them a link to the official’s facebook page, where was was congratulated by his buddies ask asked to take it easy on the home team.

The NFL has similarly asked its coaches to take it easy on the replacement refs. That’s right, instead of making sure they are properly-trained or assigning a league-official to help them sort through the rules on game day, Goodell’s response is let’s not make a fuss guys.

Though many are severely under-trained or unqualified, this mess is not the fault of the replacements. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of Goodell who refuses to reach an agreement with the referee’s union. The NFL is raking in upwards of $9 billion dollars. Surely Goodell can reach under one of the league sofas to find the funds to come to terms. Redskins cornerback D’Angelo Hall joked that he’d put a couple million in the pot to help. He’d better be careful before Goodell suspends him for a year for putting a bounty on his faux-refs. Then again, Goodell, like a hard-headed child, might not learn until one of his shiny QBs gets injured due to an out-of-control situation. Let’s hope he comes to his senses before players begin to lose theirs.

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