National Football League
Replacements put best foot forward
National Football League

Replacements put best foot forward

Published Sep. 5, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

The NFL's 93rd season officially got under way Wednesday night with the Dallas Cowboys upsetting the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 24-17 at MetLife Stadium, and there's good and bad news to report on the officiating front.

The good news is that the replacement officials actually did a pretty good job. I think they performed well, given the intensity and the pressure of the opening game on national television. There were a few misses here and there, but that's normal. And there was nothing critical that really had an impact on the outcome of the game.

Officiating is not an easy job. The biggest challenge facing these replacements is the speed of the NFL game and the complexity of the rules. It takes years to get a good grasp of NFL rules, and it's hard to expect any group of people to know the complexities with just four weeks of preseason football for training.

But again, given the circumstances they were put under, the replacements did more than a respectable job.


Unfortunately, the lack of respect originated off the field, and it was aimed at the current (locked-out) NFL referees. And just as regrettably, that shot came from one of their own, NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson.

Translated: Anderson is the NFL officials' boss.

According to, Anderson addressed various NBC producers and broadcasters this week and said that some officials become complacent once they know they won't be getting a postseason assignment. As bad as that was, it gets worse.

Anderson added that some officials who are in shape at the beginning of the season put on 20 or more pounds during the year and are unable to keep up with the play on the field.

I understand that this is a business, but to attack the professionalism of the group that Ray Anderson once touted as the best officials in sports is really a low blow and uncalled for.

Anderson went on to explain that the lockout would help the NFL establish a "bench of officials" who could replace officials who are struggling during the season. He said it was important to be able to pull underperforming officials off the field during the season, not after it. He went on to say that the lockout will help the league change from a system of "entitlement to accountability."

NFL officials are currently graded week to week, and depending on overall performance, they could get fired or demoted after the season.

Anderson's comments that some officials become complacent when they know they are out of playoff contention undermine the integrity of all officiating in general. Officiating is a tough vocation, and officials always give 100 percent effort.

It's one thing for Anderson to say it — and quite another for him to say it publicly. It's an assault on officials' professionalism.

As far as the game Wednesday night, you have to hand it to the replacements.

Given the high profile nature of this game, I was most worried how they would handle clock management and penalty enforcements, since those were two glaring issues in preseason games. The replacement crew moved the 2012 regular-season debut game along pretty well.

It's very easy for me to be critical, but it's just not fair in this case.

There were 17 accepted penalties in the game, 13 called on Dallas. So while the winning Cowboys may have been sloppy, the replacement refs were not.

One game doesn't make a week, but it was definitely a good start. We'll all know more come Tuesday morning.


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