The following is my opinion and observations from the first 3 weeks of this referee debacle. The only reason that I am writing this piece is because there are MANY observations that are being overlooked or brushed under the table by the media, fans, NFL, pretty much everyone involved.
2012 Game Observations:
In general, the replacement officials seem to be letting more physical contact occur between the defenders and wide receivers. If anything, these officials are calling offensive penalties against the receiver in more situations than I have noticed in recent years. As a fan, I like this. I think that the NFL in the last 10 years have tried to create a more offense oriented league and have possibly influenced how the normal officials tend to call more pass interference, holding and illegal contact against defenders rather than their offensive counterpart. The problem that I see is that as we complete Week 3, these calls are becoming extremely inconsistent in how they are being called. Solution: Stress consistency with these replacement refs. The worst thing is for it to be called on one play and not another.
In the trenches, the replacement officials seem to be more cognizant of hands to the face penalties against the offensive lineman, while letting obvious holding slip right past them. The holding oversight seems to be frustrating these defensive lineman and outside linebackers to the point of boiling agression. This appears to be manifesting into more trench skirmishes, cheap shots in the piles and fierce attacks on the quarterbacks. For the first 3 weeks, it just seems as though frustrations are mounting and the attempts to cause bodily harm are noticeable by many of these frustrated players as they take a ball carrier or quarterback to the ground. Solution: The replacement officials need to be more wary of what constitutes holding by an offensive player and not be afraid to call it. Second, the NFL is going to start handing out fines for players who are using manuevers or added moves to cause bodily harm, such as martial arts moves or flagrant actions to slam another player into the ground. Third, I could easily see a move to have replacement officials call a play dead sooner, rather than letting it continue. More in the grasp type rulings.
On the sideline, the replacement officials are being villified, even when they are correct. I believe it was the Denver/Pittsburgh game that the replacement officials called Denver for 12 men on the field for defense. Fox absolutely lit into the official on the sideline, much more than normal. I believe he even challenged it and it was obvious. When they cut back to Fox, instead of apologizing and admitting he didn't see it the first time, he was still insulting and bashing the replacement official. The overall attitude of everyone on the sideline is that these replacement officials are beneath them, irrelevant, a joke, incompetent, ..... the list goes on and on. Until that changes, and it probably won't, the coaches, players and sidelines are going to continue to add gasoline onto the fire during the games. It's a lack of implied authority to the officials on the field. Solution: NFL, tell these replacement officials to start ejecting these coaches. Make an example out of a couple of them in the coming weeks and I guarantee they will tone it down and start to be the team leaders they are supposed to be.
Why all the hatred and vile towards these replacement officials who are just trying to do a job that must be done and are frankly undertrained and not experienced enough to do at this point?
If the rules haven't changed, the players and coaches are experienced and know the rules, then what is the root cause of this escalation? Go ask Keshawn Johnson. In his pre-Monday night football analysis this week, he clearly states what it going on. As the coaches and the players start to realize what they can get away with and what they can't, they will exploit these replacement officials and the "Integrity of the Shield" as they keep saying, in order to win at all cost.
The NFL this year is turning into "The Longest Yard" because the players and coaches have a scapegoat and are taking advantage of it.
Ask yourself this: If a high school teacher has to miss some days and the school has to place a substitute in the classroom, does that give the students a free pass to make up their own rules or test the substitute's knowledge of the rule book? I would be upset with my child, not the substitute teacher, if my kid was going to school and taking advantage of the situation and tarnishing the classroom and it's learning environment.
It's a bad and frustrating situation, but let's make sure to pass blame evenly where blame is due.