‘] Bill Barnwell at Grantland has an excellent piece on not just the Packers loss last night, but the replacement referees in general:
It’s that aspect of replacement referee performance that’s really come to surprise me over the first three weeks of the season. To be honest, it’s not exactly unexpected that the officials would screw up on judgment calls like pass interference or, say, simultaneous possession on a catch. They’ve been worse there than I expected, but that was always going to be the aspect of their performance where their lack of experience would stand out.
Instead, the officials have shown an incredible propensity for getting simple facts wrong. They mis-spot balls on the wrong side of the field. They forget to keep accurate track of how many timeouts each team has. They call for fumbles on plays in which a guy’s entire body was down on the ground and then whistle plays dead on clean strips. They incorrectly award touchdowns and interpret pylon rules on plays that are directly in front of them. It’s a miracle that we don’t see more accidental “12 men on the field” penalties, because it seems generous to assume they can count all the way up to 12. And for all the exposition of an Ed Hochuli, who doesn’t long for the days of detailed minutiae when the replacement refs announce a mysterious penalty or review reversal, don’t explain what happened or who was involved, and then bounce back onto the field to renew the game? It’s telling that, at the end of the Patriots-Ravens game, a reasonably large portion of independent observers assumed that the referees standing directly underneath the goal post weren’t qualified to judge the one thing they were supposed to be judging.
At this point, it’s become time for the league to put its tail between its legs, apologize profusely, and ask the locked-out referees to come back under a deal of the NFLRA’s choosing. There’s no reason the referees should accept the same terms they would have offered two weeks ago; after a weekend dominated by the replacements, the real referees have more leverage than they had even a week ago. In fact, the only reason the league might want to push an agreement back further is that they have no leverage whatsoever. It’s hard to imagine the replacements being quite as noticeably bad as they were this week.