One official was pulled from duty because he’s a fan. Another negated a touchdown without ever throwing a penalty flag. Several others had difficulty with basic rules.
Upon further review, Week 2 was a poor one for the NFL’s replacement officials.
Coaches and players around the league are losing patience and speaking out against the fill-in officials following a slew of questionable calls in Sunday’s games.
The NFL locked out the regular officials in June after their contract expired. Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association broke down several times during the summer, including just before the season, and the league is using replacements for the first time since 2001.
The results have been a mixed bag.
Just hours before kickoff Sunday, the NFL removed side judge Brian Stropolo from the New Orleans-Carolina game because it was discovered he’s a Saints fan.
And then came the on-field problems.
In Philadelphia’s 24-23 win over Baltimore, two game-altering calls left quarterback Joe Flacco and linebacker Ray Lewis fuming. It appeared on replay both calls were accurate as is. But that didn’t make it any less controversial.
Flacco’s scoring pass to receiver Jacoby Jones in the fourth quarter was called back because of offensive pass interference. The official who made the call didn’t throw the yellow flag, though he immediately signaled a penalty.
“I might sound like a little bit of a baby here,” Flacco said. “But for them to make that call, I think, was a little crazy.”
Despite the public outrage, the league backed the replacement crew, a collection of small college officials who have been studying NFL rules since the summer.
“Officiating is never perfect. The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an Email to The Associated Press. “As we do every season, we will work to improve officiating and are confident that the game officials will show continued improvement.”
While some mistakes were judgment calls — such as a pass interference penalty on Pittsburgh defensive back Ike Taylor in which he appeared to miss a New York Jets receiver — the more egregious errors appear to be misinterpretations of rules.
In the Cleveland-Cincinnati game, the clock continued to run after an incomplete pass by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the second quarter. A total of 29 seconds ticked off, and the Browns ended the half with the ball at their 29. Perhaps an extra half-minute could’ve helped the drive. The Bengals won 34-27.
“Missed calls & bad calls are going to happen,” Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, an NFLPA executive council member, wrote on Twitter. “That’s part of the deal & we can all live with it. But not knowing all the rules and major procedural errors (like allowing the clock to run after an incomplete pass) are completely unacceptable. Enough already.”