The NFL Refs Are Having A Season

You have a problem, Shield.

Jim Rome
October 15, 2019 - 9:32 am
NFL refs

USA Today


There was so much happening last night, so many stars: Aaron Rodgers, Allen Lazard, Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, but you know where I have to start – with my guy Clete Blakeman.

Please, give it up for Clete. On a night where the NLCS is happening and that’s going up against a primetime battle for first place in the NFC North, you have to be pretty special to rip the spotlight from all of that.

And Clete Blakeman and his crew did just that. Clete Blakeman doesn’t just have one of the best names on the planet, he and his officiating crew are stars. Just ask them.

Because last night wasn’t about the Lions and the Packers, it was about the refs. Seriously. I know I touched on it yesterday and mentioned in passing how bad the officiating has been this season, but Blakeman and company went next level last night.

Because throughout the season, the problem has been too many calls. Too many flags. Too much of the officials.

But last night, was the breaking point. Because this thing truly is broken. And Blakeman and his crew went from officiating the game to ruining the game.

I’d love to lead the show with Aaron Rodgers and that fourth quarter drive. Or Allen Lazard  bursting onto the scene, but the officials were the story last ight. And the league officially has a crisis on its hands.

Seriously. Complaining about officiating is one of the dumbest, laziest and most tired things ever, or so I thought before last night.

Because I can’t decide if the officials last night were dumb, lazy, or tired. But I know they were absolute garbage.

I’m not going to break down every single call they did or didn’t make, but here are a few highlights. 

There was Lions DB Tracy Walker being called for a helmet-to-helmet when he was diving to catch a pass. I know that he made contact with Geronimo Allison, but what else is he supposed to do?

Walker didn’t care for that: “Extremely pissed off right now. It is what it is. Disappointed. Hurt. We had that game. It’s going – I’m going to say the same bleep, we should have won it. It is what it is, though. Got to bounce back.”

There was Lions defensive lineman Trey Flowers getting called for illegal hands to the face on third down early in the fourth quarter. That kept a drive alive for the Packers to score and cut into Detroit’s lead.

And there was Trey Flowers getting called for illegal hands to the face late in the fourth quarter. That kept a drive alive for the Packers to score and win the game.  

Flowers: “I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty. I thought hands to the face, but I had him right here in the chest. The second time I changed it to right here [another spot on the chest]. That’s part of a move that I do and, yeah. So, nah, I don’t think that was a penalty, but they did, so…”

Just so we’re clear – Flowers is in his fourth full season. According to ESPN, he’s never been called for illegal hands to the face before. And then gets called for it twice. In the fourth quarter.

And neither one was a good call. They were both terrible. Just as pretty much everything else the refs did last night was.

Then there was the play in the second quarter where the Packers were lining up for a field goal and the Lions had 12 men on the field. The officials got that. Good for them.

And then on the next possession, the Packers had 13 men on the field and the officials didn’t flag that.

And to make matters worse, this was one of those games where all the bad calls went in one direction. Normally, I’m not a big fan of complaining about the refs because the law of averages would say those bad calls will even out.

But they didn’t last night.

And here’s the other thing – we don’t need to be having all these terrible calls. There are solutions available.

It’s not my job to come up with them. The league is a multi-billion dollar operation, but the officiating looks like it’s being done by amateurs.

Normally, the officiating issues are about too many holding calls and never overturning pass interference, but Clete and Company found whole new areas of incompetence to explore. 

It got so bad that Barry Sanders had to jump in on twitter: I know that no one on the Lions can say it, so I will... That is a terrible missed call, on hands to the face and bad break for our D that is playing so hard. #replayhelpneeded

This is a problem. A huge problem.

And if the league is serious about the game, and the integrity of the game, and I’m not even going to get into the gambling ramifications of all this, they need to do something ASAP. Because it’s a joke and an embarrassment.

I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again: bring back the replacement refs. Sure those goofballs were terrible, but they were our goofballs. They were a joke and an embarrassment and emblematic of the league’s greed, but at least they were memorable.

Remember the Fail Mary, complete with Golden Tate shoving the hell out of Sam Shields, followed by Tate and MD Jennings coming down with the ball at the same time, and one ref ruling touchdown and the other ruling incomplete. And then that ref showed up at a club in Fresno 24 hours later and was taking photos with Packer fans.

You can’t tell me that isn’t an iconic moment.

Nothing about last night was an iconic moment.

This is Week 6. We’re well past the time where refs are “working out the kinks” or getting into rhythm of the season. Or focusing on new points of emphasis. Now they just suck.

Too many mistakes are made. These are mistakes that can lead to players being cut, coaches fired, front office personnel fired. And these guys making or missing these calls don’t really have to explain their mistakes to anyone.

And speaking of explaining things, the fact that there is a “rules expert” on every broadcast is a problem, not a solution. The fact that the rulebook and the way your guys call the game is so jacked up that you have to have an extra person available for every game to explain what the refs are doing, is a huge issue. The rules expert isn’t a cool broadcasting technique, the rules expert is a major issue.

The traditional football broadcast is the announcer who tells you what the players are doing and the analyst who tells you why the players are doing it. And now you’ve got some third dude who’s there to tell you why the officials are doing what they’re doing. And a lot of the time, that rules expert is just shrugging.

And don’t come here and tell me that the cameras are better and TV’s at home are better and that’s why people are seeing things better than the refs. If that’s the case, use it! Use that technology.

Go to a sky judge, which is a horrible term, by the way. If I can spot what should and shouldn’t be a penalty from my couch, let me do it. I WILL VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE.

If I have a better view from my couch, then let me officiate it. Seriously. I mean, maybe not me because I’m busy, but if your argument is that refs get unfairly criticized because the TV audience has a better view, then give the refs the better view. Have an extra official working the game, who’s watching on monitors and can immediately jump into the ear of the crew when they huddle and tell them they’re wrong.

Better yet, have a central place where there are hundreds of TV monitors where really good officials can be monitoring every game. Oh, wait, they already have that and it hasn’t made anything any better.

Here’s the number one piece of advice to the NFL on officiating: get better. Do better. 

You have a problem. There are numerous solutions. Do something. Bleeping do something.

Because burying your head in the sand and rolling out these same crews to butcher the same games is killing the game