If you're wondering why so few team officials or coaches are talking about replacement game officials -- who so far have been absolutely dreadful -- there's a reason. The league has told teams to shut the hell up about them.
The league has instructed teams not to discuss the lockout or the officials and has even offered teams a list of talking points if somehow they are forced into a position to discuss the lockout or officials.
"As discussed in our recent oonference calls," the memo says, "it's imperative that your entire organization welomes these officials and provides them with an environment that maximizes their training opportunities and encourages their development."
The memo later states: "Finally, we remind you that club personnel should not engage in public discussions about the lookout. We have attached some talking points for use by owners and a separate set of talking points for use by head coaches, if necessary. If you are asked about the negotiations or the replacement offcials, feel free to refer the question to our office. Please share these expectations with your coaches, players and operations staff so that all may contribute to the success of our officials on the field in 2012."
The memo is important for two reasons. First, the league has expressed great confidence in the officials, but if they are confident, why not let team executives and coaches discuss them?
Second, the tone of the memo indicates the NFL is ready to play the season, or a good chunk of it, with replacement offiials which, to me, would be a huge mistake.
The league has also set this up perfectly. If the officials screw up, the players will rip them, but the league is requesting teams not to say anything publicly. So the criticism will only come from players. Thus the criticism won't be as heavy as it could be. It's brilliantly devious.
And the lockout continues...