The Replacements

By Chris Lehman

“During a pro football strike, the owners hire substitute players.” –IMDB

Those of you who were expecting to see Keanu Reeves in a football jersey, you’re in the wrong place. But just in case you REALLY want to see the picture, here you go:

Now that that’s out of the way:

If it weren’t for the lack of Ed Hochuli’s biceps and Mike Carey’s lisp, no one would even know that week 1 and 2’s games were refereed by replacements.

The replacement NFL refs have created a great deal of hype leading up to this season. Through two weeks, however, it proved to be just that, hype.

Sure, there were some calls that caused a slight ruckus around the NFL, or should I say, around a few unfortunate teams’ fans. Such as this illegal block set by Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver, Harry Douglas. A local Kansas City blog calls out the refs by supplying frame-by-frame pictures showing the play. Unfortunately, this blogger forgot that the original refs were not supplied with frame-by-frame pictures in real-time either.

Besides, is anyone going to sit there with a straight face and say that the regular refs were perfect? For as long as sports have been around, referees have been the focus of “coulda-woulda-shouldas” all over sports. Now that we have replacements, people want to act like it’s any different.

I’m not buying it. Remember back in 2008, when Hochuli called the infamous incomplete pass on Jay Cutler as he led the Broncos to a game-winning drive? Cutler fumbled the ball and it was recovered by a Charger. Instead, the play was blown dead and the Broncos would go on to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Or what about last year with all the controversy surrounding Lions defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh. He built up a reputation as being a dirty player, and for what – being stronger than everyone else? Suh was flagged for punching Cutler in the head with a forearm. In real-time and in the replay, however, it was obvious that all he did was push him in the back.

And who could forget my personal favorite – Last year Calvin Johnson caught what would have been a game-winning touchdown against the Bears, only to have them blow it incomplete because he did not “complete the process.” Any way you look at that play, it was a catch.

In terms of pass interference, sure the numbers this week were way up from previous years. But at the same time, isn’t the league more of a passing league than ever before?

Yes, there were only 27 more pass attempts this year compared to the 2010 campaign, but more than ever, teams are taking more downfield shots – leaving much more pressure on opposing defensive backs to not give up the big play. We also are seeing more one-on-one man coverage than in the past, which would only naturally lead to more pass interference calls.

The only thing that these refs don’t handle correctly is the emotion from the home crowd and from the coaches. The coaches aren’t doing anything to help the refs either. I’m looking at you John Fox! All during the week 2 matchup between the Broncos and the Falcons, Coach Fox was in the official’s ear. I’m no lip-reader, but it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t congratulating him on being called upon to work in the NFL. This is something that will change in time, just as it would in any profession. Give them a few more weeks and they’ll be giving the coaches and the home fans the cold shoulder with the best of them.





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