“Bedlam and Chaos”: NFL Officiating Becoming Serious Issue in Week Three


Roy Ben-Joseph  Journal Contributor


What is going on with America’s most popular league? No word could be more appropriate to describe Week Three in the NFL than chaos, a giant bedlam. It is neither about concussions nor the player safety debate. It is not about the Patriots defense falling apart in another fourth quarter collapse. It is not about Joe Flacco making as much noise on the field as he does off it. It is not about Aaron Rodgers being sacked nine times in a game. It is not about the much talked about return of Peyton Mannning after a full season out and four neck surgeries. It is also not about the Houston Texans leading the AFC with a 3-0 record. It was all about the officiating.

Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the regular officials in the NFL have been locked out and are still negotiating their return with the NFL. Meanwhile, replacement officials have been hired. Those officials have never seen any pro game experience and have never officiated games at the speed of the NFL and in front of full stadiums. So far many teams have been harmed from lots of controversial decisions. It is not only that those officials miss some penalties; they also make some unnecessary calls. The game is much slower, and the coaches and fans are complaining.

Last week Denver Broncos head coach John Fox was fined $30,000 for arguing an on field call in the Broncos game vs. the Atlanta Falcons, causing a five minute delay. The team’s defensive coordinator Jack Del-Rio was also fined $25,000 for the same event. So far 16 NFL coaches received a memo from the league, warning them from committing any inappropriate behavior following a call by those replacement officials.

During the Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was caught by the camera’s pulling the referee’s jersey, while running after him to ask for explanations. During the game, both teams had been penalized more than 200 yards combined, including a few pass interference calls that seemed to go more in favor of the home team. This included the last drive when on a third down and long, the Patriots were penalized on a controversial decision that led to the game winning field goal for Baltimore.

In Week Three throughout the league, there were multiple events when a call on the field by the officials had to be changed after it was announced because they have mistakenly interpreted the rule. It also seems that more calls have been going in the benefit of the home teams in many games.

Perhaps the biggest officiating controversy in recent years came during Monday Night Football on the last play of the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay had a 12-7 lead and Seattle had the ball in Green Bay territory on a fourth and long, with no timeouts and a couple of seconds left on the clock, leaving time for only one more snap. Seattle QB Russell Wilson threw a Hail Marry pass into the end zone which was clearly intercepted by Green Bay’s M.D Jennings, which should have been a touchback that would end the game because time had expired. Instead, one of the officials decided that Seahawks wild receiver Golden Tate had caught the pass for a game winning TD while another official signaled for a touchback. Replay clearly showed that there was a clean interception by the Packers safety while Tate never even had a possession of the ball. Tate also committed offensive pass interference on Green Bay’s corner back Sam Shields which wasn’t called. As a result from this mistake, Green Bay lost the game 14-12 with no more time left to play. The 2010 World Champions were robbed of a clean victory.

For now, the future isn’t looking very bright for the league. Just last week NFL commissioner Roger Goodell participated in a 13-hour meeting with the locked out officials, with no progress resulting. Goodell is taking most of the fire from the team owners during this lockout period. Hopefully the two sides can reach an agreement soon, so we can all get back to concentrating on the game we love instead of this crazy controversy surrounding it.