It’s not easy being an official, in any sport, at any level. This holds true no matter how long you’ve officiated at your assigned level. I’ve said this before and it’s especially important to understand for even the most average NFL fan right now. Because of the disagreement between the NFL and it’s officiating crews, replacement officials have been brought in from various levels below that of the NFL to try and keep the games as fair as possible while the “holdout” continues. You know this, unless you’ve been stuck under a massive rock these last couple of months.
The biggest, most major challenge that these officials are facing right now (besides a lack of respect by the players and fans at the highest level of competition) is their blatent lack of knowledge regarding the NFL rules vs whatever level of football these guys have previously officiated at. It’s almost comical how some of these officials just don’t have any clue what the rules are at this level. I’d like to take a shot at explaining just how bad this is by explaining a situation this past week during the Seattle game. There were 2 really, really bad mistakes.
The first happened on the very first drive of the game, in which a pass interference penalty was thrown against Arizona’s Patrick Peterson after wide receiver Sydney Rice tripped. There was some incidental contact but nothing worthy of a flag. This messed up every PI call in the game for these officials, as practically nobody liked any flag on the defense after that, even though I believe all that were called after that play were great calls. It was a classic case of what’s acceptable and called in lower levels vs what is acceptable at the NFL level (although personally I don’t think this particular penalty should be called at ANY level), but regardless, the respect factor was gone. This was unfortunate because there were some impressive calls made at the end of the game that I’m not sure get called even with NFL officials on the field, even though they were clearly fouls that needed to be made. The regular officials sometimes seem to think that at the end of the game nothing should be called (roll my eyes).
The second happened toward the end of the game when a timeout was issued to Seattle because of an injury inside 2 minutes and the officials were unaware of it, granting the Seahawks a timeout they didn’t have and then spending 15 minutes figuring out the procedure. At any basic level, you learn that if an extra timeout is called and granted in football, there is no penalty for the procedure and you just have to call it an inadvertant whistle and move on with play. Heck, the timeout was already more than used and there was no point in finding out whether or not the Hawks had one left. But then, the officials not only spent the time figuring out the procedure, but then they compounded the issue by reciting the wrong application of the rule. They said that since the clock was stopped at the time of the injury, there was no timeout charged and therefore Seattle was now able to use their final timeout. Confused yet? Yeah, they were too. DUH! It really didn’t matter what your verdict was at that point.
My point is that these officials at different levels are going to get things wrong and we just have to deal with it. They SHOULD know the rules they are applying, but they do not (I don’t officiate football but because I watch it so much and look at it from an officials’ point of view, I know most of the rules at the different levels). It’s frustrating as an official to know the rules of another sport and have the officials that are working the game not know them. It’s frustrating as a fan. But it’s the year we live in, until the real NFL officials return.
Pt 2 of Rulebook Wednesday on NCAA Reviews coming next week. All for now