Coaches bullying replacement refs

BY Jason Whitlock • September 18, 2012

Dear Jason:

I'm thinking about tattooing Roger Goodell's name on my butt. Do you think that will get me back into the NFL or a thousand more Twitter followers?

Chad Irrelevantcinco

Your NFL Truths for Week 2:

10. Watching the Ravens and the Eagles on Sunday, it dawned on me why no one — except the 49ers — wants to run the football and maintain a balanced offense anymore: Eli Manning.

Despite his two Super Bowls and terrific play in the fourth quarter, Eli is not elite. Football coaches know this. They also know the Giants won the Super Bowl with the worst running game in football last season.

The belief now among many coaches is the rules are so stacked in favor of the passing game that you can win it all with an average QB and a below-average running game as long as you’re willing to throw the ball 65 percent of the time.

John Harbaugh believes Joe Flacco is every bit as good as Eli Manning. Andy Reid thinks Michael Pick is every bit as good as Eli Manning. Harbaugh and Reid might be right. They also believe LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice — arguably, two of the four best backs in football — can’t carry a team to the Super Bowl.

Harbaugh gave away a game on Sunday because he refused to run Rice. Harbaugh is cool with that. The Giants proved you don’t have to be all that good in the regular season. Just make the tournament and roll the dice with your pass-happy mediocre QB.

That is the Ravens' Super Bowl formula. They want to get lucky the same way the Giants got lucky in their two Super Bowl seasons. Coughlin’s Giants have never been the best team in football. They went 10-6 and 9-7 in their Super Bowl seasons.

The turnover-plagued Eagles are the luckiest team in football at the moment. Maybe some Baltimore or Philly receiver will trap a wounded duck on his helmet and propel Reid or Harbaugh to a Super Bowl victory.

9. If you understand human nature — and coaches understand human nature better than most people — you understand why replacement referees are struggling.

The No. 1 goal for a replacement ref is to get out of the game without being the story. This is the top priority because the replacement refs are not stupid. You have broadcasters and journalists who wouldn’t dare say a negative word about a coach, player or executive taking potshots at the disposable refs. This is an unprecedented, no-risk chance to talk tough. The replacement refs are under unbelievable public scrutiny.

Coaches know this. They’re instructing players to disregard the rules. If the replacement refs flagged everything they’re seeing, the games would come to a complete halt and the refs would be blamed. A crew that flagged everything would toss 30 to 40 flags per game. It would set off a stadium riot, and everyone would blame the replacement refs.

NFL stadiums on game days are highways with no cops. Everybody is going 20 mph over the speed limit.

Rather than vilify the replacement refs, you should feel sorry for them. They’re substitute teachers working in a school in which the parents (coaches) are telling the students to break the rules.

What can be done beyond ending the strike? Nothing.

8. My new nickname for Roger Goodell is Roger W. Goodell. The commissioner is football’s George W. Bush.

Seriously, I’ve defended the replacement refs. But this weekend, the levees broke on the replacement refs and Roger Dubya Goodell released a statement saying the refs performed “admirably.” This was President Bush praising “Brownie” for doing a good job in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Also, in Bush-like fashion, Dubya Goodell tortured political prisoner Gregg Williams into signing a sworn document that Jonathan Vilma paid $10,000 for a weapon of mass destruction against Brett Favre.

Don’t be surprised when Dubya Goodell invades the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets because the New Orleans Saints broke NFL rules.

Mission accomplished, Roger!

7. John Fox melted down in the first half of Monday night's Broncos-Falcons game because he witnessed his worst Peyton Manning fears, not because the refs were awful.

Berating the refs and talking about the refs were convenient excuses for Fox and ESPN “MNF” analyst Jon Gruden to avoid the elephant in the room. Manning can't throw the ball accurately or with zip more than 20 yards. Manning is toast. Every time he tried to challenge the middle of the field, the Falcons intercepted his weak pass.

Denver scrapped its game plan after the first quarter. Manning threw sideways the rest of the night. Denver was reduced to dinking and dunking. This was painfully obvious. It was embarrassing listening to Gruden avoid the topic and continue to sing the praises of Manning as he handed the ball to Willis McGahee and threw 8-yard outs to Brandon Stokley.

I get that Manning is ratings gold for TV networks, but Gruden took a dump on his own credibility shilling for Manning in such an obvious manner. Manning used to make the opposition defend the entire field. That’s over. He can’t take the top off a defense. On numerous first and second downs, the Falcons walked their safeties up and begged Manning to throw deep. He never even tried. When he threw a few skinny post routes, the passes lacked the customary zip. They got there at about the same time as the safety or corner, who blew up the receiver or defensed the pass.

6. Peyton Manning made an enormous mistake not signing with the 49ers.

It’s obvious Manning needs help. Jim Harbaugh can hide a quarterback with a weak arm. Alex Smith is exhibit A. Plus, the San Francisco defense, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree give a weak-armed QB more places to hide.

Manning is going to play his entire career without getting help from a top-flight offensive mind. This is criminal. You pair Manning — even this spaghetti-arm Manning — with Harbaugh and you have a combination that can win multiple Super Bowls.

5. Ndamukong Suh looked like the second coming of Warren Sapp during Sunday night’s Lions-49ers game.

I’ve been a critic of Suh. For my money, he has underachieved his first two seasons. But Sunday night, he was a force. He played like the beast we saw at Nebraska. The 49ers had no choice but to double-team Suh in passing situations. Detroit’s defense played good enough to win Sunday’s game. Suh set the table.

4. I like Greg Schiano. He looks and sounds like an NFL head coach. Schiano reminds me of a young Tom Coughlin.

Yep, 17 years ago Coughlin entered the NFL as a 49-year-old college head coach with a major chip on his shoulder. Coughlin led the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game in his second season. Coughlin was a military-style workaholic who didn’t care what people thought of him.

I disagree with Schiano’s end-of-game decision to rough up the Giants in victory formation, but I absolutely love his attitude. He told the defending Super Bowl champion coach to go &*%* himself at midfield and then calmly defended his actions in the postgame news conference.

Score one for Schiano.

3. My former Kansas City Star colleagues, Kent Babb and Sam Mellinger, did a nice job Monday of reminding Chiefs fans of the problems I pointed out regarding general manager Scott Egoli in 2009.

Egoli — referred to by some as “Pioli” — is in over his head, lacks self-awareness and worries way too much about things that absolutely do not matter because his football acumen is suspect. Egoli is a major problem. His insecure, paranoid leadership style is undermining the success of the franchise. Babb pointed this out last season with a terrific, well-reported story on Egoli’s bizarre relationship with former head coach Todd Haley. Egoli allegedly listened to Haley’s phone calls and conversations.

Well, there’s an even bigger problem in KC than Egoli: out-of-town ownership.

Clark Hunt lives in Dallas. He’s disconnected from the fan base and the organization. Egoli and former Chiefs general manager King Carl Peterson have run the franchise poorly because there is so little direct oversight of their management style. The cats will play while the boss is away. Absolute power corrupts. Clark Hunt gives his general managers/presidents way too much power.

The Chiefs and the Royals have been largely irrelevant for decades because ownership resides in another state. Royals owner David Glass lives in Arkansas.

2. It doesn’t matter how poorly Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez performs; there will not be an authentic QB controversy in New York.

Football fans, particularly New York football fans, are not as dumb as the media. There is no real future in building around Tim Tebow at quarterback. Tebow is great for TV ratings and web clicks, but he’s not going to be the QB of a consistent winner.

Here’s the best-case scenario for smart Jets fans: The Jets finish the season 6-10 and with a top-12 draft pick. Matt Barkley continues to have a mediocre senior season at USC and scouts sour on him. Barkley falls out of the top five of the draft.

Barkley could be the next Dan Marino. Remember, Marino had a disappointing senior season and fell into the Miami Dolphins lap at the bottom of the first round. Barkley won’t have to fall that far into the lap of Rex Ryan or the next Jets coach.

1. It’s not just the loss of Sean Payton that has the Saints in an 0-2 toilet. It’s playing musical chairs at interim coach.

Payton had the right idea when he originally reached out to his friend Bill Parcells to coach the Saints this season. When Parcells declined, the Saints decided to go with Joe Vitt and Aaron Kromer as interim head coaches. Vitt led during the offseason. Kromer is leading during the first six weeks while Vitt is serving a six-game suspension. This has contributed to the chaos and New Orleans’ winless start.

Payton needed to turn his team over to one proven leader for the entire season. Dick Vermeil would have been the perfect choice. Drew Brees desperately needs a friend, a quarterback-friendly coach. Brees has a dirty little secret that I told you about last season. Because he’s short, he throws two or three floaters a game that can be picked off. Payton does a solid job of hiding Brees’ secret.