The nightmare is…over? The National Football League’s usual brigade of referees has reached an unratified agreement with the League, meaning they got whatever it is they wanted (gold krugerrands? Their father’s acceptance? A really good sandwich?). This sit-down had forced the NFL to start the season with so-called replacement refs who have so far been about as useful as a really f***able bucket of chum. When they aren’t missing blatant fouls they’re throwing yellow flags on phantom offense. When they aren’t misinterpreting rules, they’re forgetting rules even exist.
In only 3 weeks of play, the replacement refs have racked up quite a tally of terrible moments. Let’s take a look at the most egregious.
Ogletree Slips on Ref’s Hat
The Rule: When a wide receiver steps out of bounds at any point during his run he becomes ineligible, and any pass he catches results in a loss of five-yards, unless he reestablishes eligibility before the catch by taking three-steps back in bounds.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree supposedly stepped out of bounds during a play in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If he did, it wasn’t captured on any camera angle. But let’s suppose he did. When that happens, the ref is supposed to take off his hat and throw it to the ground to signify player ineligibility, preferably never at the feet of the player, whose attention is on the ball and is worth quite a bit of money to a team. Too bad that’s exactly what happened.
Not only is there no evidence that Ogletree ran out of bounds as that play unfolded, but the ref’s hat sailed just under Ogletree’s foot moments before it landed. In the NFL, your knee can explode while celebrating; there’s no telling what sudden and unprovoked slapstick comedy will do to you. We can just be thankful the ref wasn’t disposing of a banana peel at the time. Things could have really been bad.
Whether or not Ogletree would have been able to make the catch had he not been tripped by the ref is debatable. After watching the video, it seems like the slip shaved some time off of Ogletree’s cutback to the far corner of the end zone. In my mind, that could very well have been a catch if Ogletree didn’t have to devote time to making sure his season wasn’t cut short by a hat injury.
Two Dudes Slap-Fighting Is No Longer A Foul
The Rule: Do I really need to spell this out for you? They can’t fight each other. Done.
During week 3’s Sunday night matchup between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, Ravens defensive back (DB) Cary Williams was tasked with having to defend Patriots wide receiver (WR) Julian Edelman. Battles between DBs and WRs can get ugly fast. The two are constantly jostling for position as they run and juke at near-full speed. Hands tangle, elbows get thrown, and shoves are exchanged. It’s always one of the more hotly contested battles during any given game.
So it’s no surprise that sometimes the tensions between the two positions can flair and result in fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct. At the end of one particular play, their tempers got the best of them and a silly-ass slap fight ensued. NFL fist fights are always fun to watch because soon after the fight begins, all participants realize how pathetically ineffectual their blows are. It’s like two fully armored knights trying to give each other purple nurples – it’s just not going to happen. With real NFL refs, fights only last a second or two before the flag is thrown.
But not with replacement refs.
You’re probably well aware of the old gag of claiming a ref is blind for not having seen a particular play, and thus ruling it incorrectly, or not calling it at all. In the case of the fight between Williams and Edelman, I’m going to assume the ref, who was standing no less than 10 feet from the fight, had, before the start of the play, removed his eyes from his skull, perhaps in an effort to clean out his sockets. Clearly, there should have been a flag thrown on someone yet nothing happened, even with the ref standing close enough to smell their DNA. This is dangerous, as it creates an atmosphere of lawlessness. If you can fight on the field like it’s a hockey game with even fewer repercussions than a hockey fight, others may be more willing to throw a punch or two thinking they can get away with it.
Jim Harbaugh Gets An Extra Time Out
The Rule: Each half, teams are allowed three time outs. When you challenge a play and demand it be reviewed, you need at least one time out left. If you have no time outs, you can’t challenge a play.
See how easy that rule is to understand? It works like money – you can’t do this thing if you don’t have enough of this other thing. Simple and elegant, right? So why did Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, get to challenge two plays after he ran out of time outs in a game against the Minnesota Vikings?
With the clock winding down and the Niners on the brink of defeat, Harbaugh called his final time out after a fumble by Vikings running back Tony Gerhart. Believing a 49er recovered the ball and not a Vikings player, as it was originally ruled by the refs, Harbaugh then attempted to challenge the play. The problem was, the time out he had just called was his final time out. So, what happens? The ref lets him challenge the damn play anyway.
After a review that shouldn’t have happened in the first place, the call was overturned. 49ers now have possession of the ball. Now, here’s a tricky little rule when it comes to challenges: if a coach successfully challenges a play, his team doesn’t lose a time out. If the challenge was unsuccessful, however, it costs the team a time out, basically as a penalty for wasting everyone’s time. So the 49ers had no time outs, and then somehow successfully challenged a play, which resulted in the 49ers getting back a time out that they never gave up to begin with. It’s like if you rob a bank and then a cop asks “Hey, did you rob that bank?” and you deny it, so the cop rewards you with a bunch of money stolen from a bank. And it doesn’t even end there!
Five plays later, the entire scenario, right down to a Tony Gerhart fumble, happens again.
Tony Gerhart fumbles, Harbaugh calls a time out that he shouldn’t have had, and then decides to challenge the ruling on the possession after the fumble, and then the ref allows the challenge…AGAIN!
The only difference is the outcome. This time, Gerhart recovered his own fumble, and the cycle of stupidity finally came to a depressing end.
Ultimately, this played no role in the final outcome of the game. The Vikings somehow pulled off an improbable win against one of the best teams in the league, and they did it in the face of a string of truly terrible calls. But that’s the problem with the replacement refs, isn’t it? If their total lack of experience and their “let’s make this up as we go” attitude doesn’t affect the outcome of a game, who’s going to care?
Well, it was only a matter of time before the refs screwed up so badly that their inability to perform their jobs cost someone a game. That time came the very next day, during the final seconds of the Packers-Seahawks Monday Night Football game.
The Rule: Under the rules of a simultaneous catch between an offensive and defensive player, the ball is ruled to be in possession of the offensive player. A separate rule regarding a simultaneous catch states that possession is attained when the player with possession touches the ground with both feet.
If you haven’t heard of this spectacular !^(%-up yet, then your anus must be permanently stretched out so that you may slip your head into it comfortably the moment a massive pop-cultural event takes place.
Week 3’s Monday night game was a rather uneventful one, for the most part. The Green Bay Packers were having a tough time trying to solve the puzzle that was the Seattle Seahawk’s defense. Reigning league MVP and Packers quarter back Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times and never connected for a touchdown, yet going into the final minute of play the Packers were barely holding on to a lead. That stat line proved to be the most interesting part of the game…until a last second Hail Mary pass by Seahawks quarter back Russell Wilson. Then all hell broke loose.
The pass sailed to the back corner of the end zone. Under it was a cluster of Packers and Seahawks angling themselves for a game winning catch. As the ball came down, Packers safety M.D. Jennings jumped to get it, along with Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. They both caught it, or so it seemed at first. Since there was a supposed simultaneous catch, the ball was ruled to be in possession of Tate, the offensive player. The refs ruled it a touchdown for the Seahawks, netting them the 6 points needed to squeak out the victory.
But (and there’s always a but with replacement refs) replays clearly show Jennings was in full possession of the ball as both feet touched the ground. What the refs ruled on was Tate making a last second grab for the ball once both players were on the ground. The refs seemed to ignore the fact that Jennings was holding the ball to his chest with both hands — a pretty big indicator of possession — and paid more attention to Tate’s hands making a desperate grab for a catch he didn’t make.
For some reason, even after the play was reviewed, the call on the field was upheld, and the Packers lost. And on top of all that, before he made a jump for the ball, Tate very clearly pushes Packers cornerback Sam Shields with two hands, and should have been called for offensive pass interference which would have ended the game.
Finally, the replacement refs screwed up so royally that their inexperience resulted in a team losing because of their bad calls. The result wasn’t only bad for the Packers and their fans, but for fantasy football players that had vested interest in the game. According to ESPN, around 67,000 ESPN fantasy league players won or lost based on the outcome of the final play, as the Packers defense was started in 62% of fantasy leagues and would have had totaled 11 fantasy points instead of 6 had Jennings’ catch been correctly ruled an interception.