Crunch Time for September 27, 2012
Seattle win is whopper of a story in NFL officiating debacle
By JOHN McCALLUM
You know how sometimes when you go fishing you catch something that's too small, the wrong species or just so dang ugly that you don't want to take it home? What do you do – you throw it back.
That's how I felt Monday night after the Seattle Seahawks improbable last-play win over the Green Bay Packers. Ewww, ick, throw it back.
I'm a Seahawks fan, don't get me wrong, but thanks to the nature of how they pulled out the win, throwing it back is the only respectable thing to do.
How they won can be summed up in two words – replacement referees. OK, yes I know there are many more words to describe the current state of officiating in the NFL but we can't print those.
For the non-addicted Monday Night Football fans, a last second throw by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was hauled down in the end zone by Packers safety M.D. Jennings and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate. One replacement official signaled touchdown, the other that time expired.
Replay showed Jennings really had the most control of the football throughout, but the ruling on the field was it was a simultaneous catch – and a tie always goes to the receiver. That decision was upheld by the NFL on Tuesday despite the disclosure by ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder that the official signaling touchdown, Lance Easley, had only four years of officiating experience and none above the NCAA Division III level.
The NFL in upholding the ruling conceded that prior to the catch, Tate should have been called for pass interference for shoving Green Bay's Sam Shields aside to make the catch – or combo catch.
The play was the culmination of a weekend that once again featured questionable calls helping decide games and replacement officials struggling to control some contests, like Sunday night's Patriots-Ravens game that seemed to have pushing and shoving matches erupt at the end of almost every play.
Many fans, and I'm one of them, hoped the Seattle-Green Bay fiasco might push both sides in the lockout of NFL regular officials towards the bargaining table. Alas, the signs don't look good.
The NFL Referees Association and the league owners still have a ways to go before agreeing to a deal, according to ESPN's Andrew Brandt. Of course, there's money, about $25 million to $30 million over 6-7 years. There are also pension payments the NFL sees as unfair and needing to be eliminated because it's money paid to part-time employees that some full-time league and team employees don't even receive.
The NFL wants seven full-time officials at each position, something the Referees Association sees as a problem because that would require the existing part-time officials to leave their current full-time jobs and the NFL won't pay them the equivalent of two incomes.
There's also the NFL's desire to have three additional crews, 21 officials, on “standby,” which hasn't been warmly received either, mainly because the NFLRA sees these as officials on hand ready to replace under performing regular officials.
Both sides are still far apart on these issues, and while Monday night's debacle in Seattle might throw a bit of fuel on the fire, it's unlikely. So many incidents have happened already that if the owners, represented by commissioner Roger Goodell, were truly interested in maintaining the integrity of the game through professional officiating, we would have had a settlement before the season started.
Like other strikebreakers, the replacement officials are just trying to do their best. I don't hold them at fault.
The real culprits, as always, are the owners who have more of an interest in what's in their wallets than what fans see on the field. And that's a shame because things like what happened Monday night cheapen the game, and could down the road be a factor around playoff time.
Pretty fishy to me.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.