Right Down There with Used Car Salesmen and Congress

Such is the plight of the NFL’s replacement officials!

I was watching Monday Night Football last night.  The Atlanta Falcons were hosting the Denver Broncos.  As much as I would have liked to have been focused on the athleticism of the players, the play calling of the coaches, and the ebb and flow of the game; my attention was constantly being drawn to the performance of the replacement officials.  I wonder how the average football fan would rate the performance of the replacements through the first two weeks of the regular season?  Probably not very highly.

I have a real sense of empathy for these guys.  Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be walking in their shoes.  No matter which way they turn, they find themselves in an undeniably difficult,”Lose-Lose” situation.

“Say what?”

They know that regardless of how well they perform their jobs, they will shortly no longer be officiating NFL games.  They know that the NFL coaches and players relate to them as students often relate to substitute teachers, figuring out just how much they can get away with – and then pushing for just a little more.  They know that given their own inexperience, every call they make will likely be challenged and open to ridicule.

Is it any wonder that they sometimes take a bit too long in throwing a penalty flag and then sometimes take inordinately long periods of time in deciding what to do next?

On average, it takes 3 hours to play a typical NFL game.  It took just under an hour to complete the first quarter of last night’s Broncos at Falcons game.  At one point, I was considering the possibility of going on to bed and getting up this morning in time to catch the 4th quarter.  Fortunately, the pace picked up in subsequent quarters, but it still took 3 hours and 20 minutes to complete play.

Now I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the regular officials who are holding out for a better deal, which of course means more money from the NFL.  After all, they earn an average salary of $148,000 per year for a part-time job and that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

But I do think that it’s time for the NFL to cut to the chase and come to an agreement that gets the experienced officials back on the field; and the quicker the better.  For years, I’ve thought that it would be in the best interests of the NFL to have full-time, professional officials – but at this point, that’s a story for another day.

That said, I also think it’s time to cut the replacement officials a little slack.  If they weren’t out there on the field, would there even be an NFL season right now?  I hope that they’re being well compensated and, after the dust settles, will be able to look back on this experience with a least a little bit of a smile.

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