The 2012 NFL season will forever be known as the year of the replacement officials. It doesn’t matter how many games the Steelers win or anybody else; whoever wins the Super Bowl will have an asterisk by their title in the minds of the fans. Now if the Steelers were to win it we certainly wouldn’t do that would we?
Seriously though, nary a game goes by without at least one controversial call made by the officials, or just as bad, ones that missed. The Steelers have as much room to complain as anybody to this point; the phantom pass interference calls, missed holding penalties, late hits on Ben Roethlisberger, the list goes on and on. Still though Ryan Clark takes a stance that most fans can’t even fathom, he’s standing up for them, at least somewhat.
“They are doing the best they can. When you put people in positions they are not used to who haven’t been trained to handle this type of game, these type of athletes you are going to have some mistakes. If the brass is willing to take that chance with the game, all we can do is play.”
If you’re thinking like me, that’s a subtle jab at the NFL as much as it is standing up for the replacement officials. Clark is right; the officials haven’t been properly trained anywhere near long enough to handle the type of pressure that the NFL carries each week. So if you can’t beat them, what’s the sense of complaining about it as a player? You know bad things are going to happen, all you can do is try to play through it and not let the game come down to the officials.
The standoff between the NFL owners and officials reached the lock out stage this past June and while the sides have talked between then and now they have yet to reach a common ground. This is not something where the Commissioner or the Players Association can just pay the officials what they want; the owners have to approve it. One of the bigger issues that we know of is pensions. Normally full time officials would have the leverage to ask for that type of increased benefit, but with the NFL officials being part time that’s a problem for the owners to justify so far, among other things of course. How much longer they stand firm on their terms of this lockout is anybody’s guess but after watching that Packers-Seahawks game on Monday Night Football, a resolution can’t come soon enough.
Ryan Clark, known in the past for not having a filter when it comes to Commissioner Roger Goodell and the new NFL rules has toned down his criticism considerably this year. Even if that wasn’t the case though, he’s right on more often than not and this is no exception.
These replacements come from all across the college ranks, some even officiate high school games during the week before flying out to do an NFL game. We can sit here and say that pass interference is pass interference, or a fumble is a fumble but when the pressure is on and you’re in the spotlight it’s not quite as easy as it was back in your hometown.
We can complain all we want, and as fans we surely will but it’s not going to change anything. If the NFL owners are willing to keep their doors locked during the player lockout last year, having no football at all, they’ll be in no hurry to give in to the demands of full time officials. After all the fans are still pouring into the stadiums every week right?
The league is going to continue to back up their replacements for as long as it takes no matter how many times Larry Foote screams at them or Bill Belichick shakes them down screaming at the top of his lungs.
An Ed Hochuli holding call doesn’t seem so bad right now does it?
Update- 12:00pm EST 9/26 – According to ESPN, a deal may be close and we could see the normal officials back to work soon. However as the day went on, those rumors did not pan out into a new deal just yet but the sides are talking again.
Ryan Clark quote courtesy of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review