|Roger Goodell thinks the replacement refs did an 'adequate job' on Wednesday. (US Presswire)|
The NFL needed its replacement refs to step up in a big way Wednesday night under the glare of the national spotlight, and after doing just that, Roger Goodell had effusive praise for them. Or adequate praise anyway.
"Our officials did a more than adequate job last night," Goodell said at a Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in New York City. "I think we've proven we can train officials, get them up to NFL standards, and we've done that in a three-month period. These officials will get even better as time goes by. The game is not going to stop."
That initially sounds like a back-handed compliment, but it's really not. The officials did a good job on Wednesday. They didn't turn the game into a disaster, but they also weren't without mistakes, although any slip-ups could've easily been made by a regular officiating crew.
But the real reason Goodell's praise was so tempered is that gloating would be foolish, especially with 12 more games left on the schedule this week. He wants the regular officials to return as much as anyone else, but the league just doesn't want to cave to their demands. If the rest of the replacement officials are efficient as the group on Wednesday (which was likely the best group available), the referees are going to find themselves in a tough negotiating position.
Goodell also spoke about the preseason during the summit, repeating a mantra we've heard before: the league isn't a fan of four preseason games.
"The four preseason games are an issue for us,” Goodell said. “One, you have a question whether we really need it to put on the best quality product. Two, you have an issue of how our fans are reacting to it, and they're not reacting positively. It's not the kind of standard that the NFL is used to producing."
No one is a fan of the four preseason games, but the league wants to rid themselves of two of them in order to expand the regular season to 18 games, something Goodell mentioned.
That's not likely an immediate turn of events, but it wouldn't be shocking to see the preseason shrink sooner rather than later. The games are overpriced, the talent is underwhelming and generally speaking, the product just isn't good, especially by the fourth week.
Improving the product is typically the NFL's biggest goal when the league makes a decision. If the refs keep up the work they did on Wednesday, the league will have done a good job of maintaining the quality of the product on the field throughout a potentially difficult time. And even if they refs screw up, they could always announce the cancellation of preseason games. That would more than make up for a few missed pass-interference calls.
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