No, the NFL’s replacement officials were not perfect in Wednesday night’s regular-season opener. On an Eli Manning pass to Victor Cruz near the goal line, the officials missed what should have been a defensive holding penalty on the Cowboys, a missed call that may have cost the Giants four points in a game the Cowboys would win 24-17.
But the reality is, the regular officials miss defensive holding penalties, too. And by and large, the replacement officials were competent and effective on Wednesday night.
Jim Core, the head referee for the game, was apparently chosen for this marquee game because the NFL had more confidence in him than it had in any other replacement ref. He turned out to be the right choice: He ran the game efficiently and effectively, and communicated the calls well. Yes, there was one point when he said “clipping” but should have said “illegal block in the back,” but there were no lengthy delays as the officials huddled to discuss a call, no long replay reviews, no moments where you threw up your hands and questioned whether the officials knew what they were doing.
Maybe that’s a low bar, but after a preseason in which we wondered at times whether the NFL could find seven competent people to put in striped shirts and work a game, the big story regarding the officials is that they aren’t the story: The Cowboys and the Giants decided the outcome of this game, and the officials blended into the background. That’s how it should be.