Players need to force NFL, officials back to bargaining table


The ultimate reality show currently is providing high drama on the issue of officiating.  The NFL has hunkered down, with denial bordering on delusion regarding the quality of third-tier-and-worse replacements for the locked-out men in black and white.

The talking points that were issued in July apparently have been updated to suggest that owners should say there’s no difference between the locked-out officials and the regular officials.  Texans owner Bob McNair has said it.  Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said it.

The league office insists that the replacements are improving.  Maybe, in comparison to where they were, they are.  But improving and adequate are two different issues.

And while at least three coaches have broken ranks (to some degree) in the past two weeks, with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis most recently calling out the replacements for blowing a call on Thursday night, the NFL has managed to keep the issue from reaching critical mass — in large part because the fans and more importantly the players have been apathetic.

The players are the key to this one.  As Peter King suggested earlier this week on PFT Live, at least one leader per team needs to speak out.  Instead, Pats quarterback Tom Brady expressed nonchalance at the replacements last week — an emotion he surely won’t be projecting when a defensive lineman gives Brady a dirty look and a flag isn’t thrown.

And where’s Saints quarterback Drew Brees in this?  Outspoken on matters that directly affect his bank accounts, the supposed union leader is providing zero leadership when it comes to an issue that potentially imperils all players by giving them what the NFLPA calls “first responders” who aren’t the first choice.

The players and the NFLPA could be the only ones to break the current impasse, by putting enough pressure on the NFL to get back to the bargaining table.  Players can help by speaking out, and the NFLPA can move the needle by filing a grievance or taking some other action that would poke a thorn into the NFL’s side.

(Actually, we’ve heard random chatter about the possibility of players filing suit against the NFL and the NFLPA for exposing them to substandard officials.  Before the players lawyer up, however, they need to speak up.)

Last year during the players lockout, the antitrust litigation filed by, among others, Brady and Brees provided a framework for forcing the two sides to negotiate.  This year, with no one pushing the parties together, the NFL can sit back with its arms folded, waiting for the locked-out officials to blink.  And the locked-out officials (most if not all of whom have other employment) can sit back with their arms folded, waiting for the kind of blunder that will wake up the players and the fans.

We should expect better behavior from the stewards of the game.  Fans and players should demand it.

UPDATE 10:02 a.m. ET:  In fairness to Brees, he has spoken out during routine media availability.  But that’s not the kind of speaking out that will resonate, because to date his words on the topic haven’t.  The players need an affirmative, coordinated effort to pressure the NFL and the officials to go back to the bargaining table.

58 responses to “Players need to force NFL, officials back to bargaining table

  1. Get over it. Suddenly everyone thinks the old refs were perfect. What a joke. The players don’t need to get involved in this at all. Can’t wait for the season to start

  2. The reason this fan does not care either way; the refs are human, humans make mistakes.
    Ask any long time NFL fan that. Most every Monday during the season we hear about a blown call that potentially impacted the outcome of the game.
    Not saying we like it, just that it happens.
    So why should we get all upset about the current refs?
    It’s not like the other refs are perfect w/ all of thier calls.

  3. These officials are almost as good as tge regular ones. Heck I watched torrey smith of the ratbirds push william gay with his left arm 30 yds downfield to create separation to catch the game winner and no call! That btw decided the afc north! Not to mention the umteen bazillion calls against the steelers defense for clean awesome physical hits! Ummm yaaa. Replacement or regular ref’s? Ill take my chances!

  4. I am with Jerry Jones…. there is not a real difference. Criticism of the replacement officials ignores the reality that the “normal” officials have been HORRIBLE at their jobs for at least two straight seasons.

    These replacements are not good at all, but they are not a whole lot worse than the goons they are replacing.

  5. Well I’m a fan and I demand they hire the replacements permanently and make them full time. It doesn’t take much to get as “up to speed” as the current officials are and some of them think the game is about them and some show blatant favoritism. The game will be better with new officials.

  6. Let’s ease up on the replacement refs “imperiling” players. If someone gets injured because of a penalty and they miss a call, that person would also get injured if they made the call.

    But as much as I want the NFL to stick it to the original refs and their attitude as part-time employees, the replacements suck and we will all be better off when they’re back in the XFL or wherever they came from.

  7. I do not understand how any true and intelligent fan could possibly argue against the opinion expressed herein.

  8. NFL stands for Not For Long. Beginnings of a downward spiral? Spygate fiasco, BountyGate fiasco, Labor impasse, Officials, a team in London….they are going down the wrong path, destroying America’s favorite pasttime!

  9. A perfectly adequate offer (5 – 11% annual pay increases each year over the life of the contract) has been made to the NFLRA.

    All they need to do is sign the agreement and they’ll be back to work ASAP.

    The NFLPA is an entity that can’t take care of their own members – much less help another union.

    The players – well – you’ve already shown how much the “leaders” are involved (Brees and Brady).

    I can’t “demand” that the NFLRA go back to work – and they are the one’s that are holding up the process.

    NFLRA – sign the deal and get to work!

  10. I disagree Florio. In my opinion your premise is flawed based on the fact that the old NFL refs were terrible too. Ed Hochuli routinely blows calls (chargers fumble?). The saints lions regular season game Titus had a blatant TD called out of bounds. I’m glad to see those bums locked out.

  11. Finally someone recognizes when it comes to the NFL Drew has only the interests of himself at heart. Where is now that he got paid as top player. All union reps should be banging on the NFLs door!

  12. The existing refs are lousy too. Maybe not as bad, but certainly not good. Most fans would kill for some consistency in the penalties they do and don’t call. (It’s the ones they don’t that really affect games imo.) Most of us don’t care because the locked-out officials this site keeps clamoring need to come back will still be lousy.

    Fans of most teams had at least 2 games last year they felt could’ve or should’ve gone the other way and resulted in a loss because of the officiating. As a Detroit fan I’m still pissed that they refused to call one single holding on the Saints in our playoff game. Suh and VandenBosch were being bear hugged from behind and they wouldn’t throw a flag. And then we hear people like Pereria constantly excuse the inconsistency by saying things like, “They’re not going to make those calls against the home team in the playoffs.” Huh? The whole point of officiating should be that it isn’t biased. That they make the same calls 2 minutes in as with 2 minutes to go.

    So now it’ll be 3-4 games a year we feel screwed by bad officiating instead of 2. Would you like a kick in the groin or the shin?

  13. I’m not feeling any love for the striking officials from the fans. We all know we could do a better job and would gladly do it for free! #overpaid #egos

  14. Um, no they don’t. More $ to officials means less money to players. Replacement officials means potentially more bad calls than last year. Players are in a lose/lose, so why get involved?

  15. You’re right Florio, Golden Boy Brady will lose it like a petulant baby if the replacement refs even let opposing players touch his hair.

    However, it’s more likely that the replacement refs will go too far the other way and drive defenses crazy with an over emphasis on protecting the QBs. Just the way the NFL likes it!!!

  16. Wrong. The players need to play. That is enough for them to worry about.

    Were the officials outspoken in their solidarity for the players union when the CBA was being negotiated? Didn’t think so.

    A significant issue holding back a settlement at this point is the League’s desire to have a performance grade instituted that would allow them to bench or toss out an official or an entire crew that isn’t doing the job. Now THAT is an issue worth fighting for for fans and players alike!

  17. They should be talking but to try and force the players to speak up on the topic is foolish.

    That’s not even close to being realistic, by doing what you suggest then you are opening a Pandora’s box.

    Suppose for a minute they did what you suggest, what is next the players force out an official that makes bad call Ed Hocolli for example in your way of thinking the officials could be left to the whim of the players for every bad call, what would stop them if they have the power to force the NFL to hire the officials the players want. Bad idea on so many levels.

    You didn’t put much thought into this Mike.

    The players need to stay as far away from this as possible and let the process work itself out.

  18. Let’s see if the owners sing the same tune if their teams barely miss the playoffs because of one game they lost due to a terrible call.

    I really don’t get it. What’s the gap between the league and the referees? 12 million over 7 years? That’s just ridiculous. The league makes $9 billion anually, so $1.3 million a year should be less than pennies. I know that you shouldn’t give out money just because you have it, but I would gladly give those $12 million to make sure that bad referee calls are not part of the discussion when people talk about the NFL.

  19. If the NFL wants the public to support them and keep the replacement refs in place, they should just have Berman and Dilfer call every NFL game.

    There were at least half a dozen badly blown calls in the Cardinals-Titans game that were not even mentioned by those two, who seemed more intent on seeing who could get more air time than actually calling the game.

    There were so many terrible spots, it’s hard to keep track of them all. But the most egregious one was when Kolb’s pass was deflected to Daryn College. The O-lineman fell down a good half yard short of the first down marker, yet the ball was spotted past the marker for a first down.

    The entire drive after that which led to a touchdown never should have happened.

  20. I agree that the old officials made mistakes but can you imagine when the lights get bright and these guys have to make tough calls. It’s gonna be a joke.

  21. Mike makes several good points here. Brady lives and dies by the good graces of the refs and Brees is a hypocrite of the highest order now showing his true colors.

    The replacement refs are obviously inferior and are dragging the games out by up to 30 minutes. It’s killing the tempo of the games and some of the blown calls are hard to fathom. The owners are by and large liars who’ll say anything. I think the players should say something, but I’m sure they dread reprisal.

  22. I could care less. I’ve seen very little to show me these replacements can’t get the job done. Yes the others are more experienced but so what. Its game time, show up or shut up.

  23. Anyone that says there was no difference in last nights Packers/Bengals game is delisional at best, a flat out Liar at worst. The owners and Godell make me want to slap them upside the head with their comments. You really know how to insult your fanbase’s intellingence don’t you?

  24. The NFL is so powerful that I think they might be ballsy enough to say screw them. We can play our regular season games with replacement referees. The referees are playing a dangerous game. The NFL holds most of the cards here.
    Has to be some way to reach a settlement. A big sticking point is that the referees want an increase in their pension and in today’s climate I don’t see the NFL giving in on that demand.

  25. You are right on Mike. Obviously, they are not going to listen to fans …so.. the players need to step up.

  26. Nobody cares anymore, the replacement refs are doing fine, I see no difference,..let them get the kinks out during these fake games and they will be ready come opener,..I am sooooo glad those old losers all got fired…by the way this is what happens when unions try and screw companies over,..unions havent been a benefit to workers in about a hundred years,..just a criminal organization to get rich off others labor.

  27. One thing is certainly correct; Nobody cares. Not players (Who really should be supporting an affiliated union.), and certainly not the fans who regularly see their teams robbed, or wronged by the oh so professional regular officials.

    Let’s face it; If the regular officials, veterans of 20 some odd years of officiating games on the highest level weren’t regularly guilty of obvious, horrendous, errors (Coin flip in the Superbowl anyone?) people would probably care more.

    This is why, in my opinion, being a ref should be a full time job. There are enough resources to make these guys NFL employees full time, and have a full stake in their professions. The off season can be used for preparing mentally and physically for the season.

    There really is no argument that is valid as to why one group of men making obvious, blatant errors is that superior to another group of men making obvious, blatant errors. We see it all the time. Hits on the field that don’t draw flags, but draw fines. Hits on the field that draw flags but don’t draw fines. One thing Jerry Jones got right was that as long as it’s the same for everyone…Who cares? And it will be.

    Officials aren’t going to stop hits before they happen. They aren’t going to stop penalties before they happen, seeing as how you could call penalties on nearly every play. The replacement officials will get better, just like every one of the regular officials got better with time, but they will never be perfect. Just like the regular officials.

  28. Never thought I’d say this, but…bring back the refs.

    Sadly, it probably won’t happen until a popular team team loses a regular-season game because of a blown call.

    If it happens to a team from New York, the real refs will be back on the job in fifteen minutes. The league office hates it when an angry mob shows up on their doorstep.

  29. Imagine Marvin Lewis calling out the replacements for blowing a call on Thursday. Thank God, that the regular refs have never blown a call. Thank heaven the receivers have never run the wrong route or that the offensive line has never missed a block. Lewis certainly has the right to call someone else out for making a mistake because amazingly as a coach he never made one bad call last year (which of course is why the Bengals finished 16-0 in the regular season and won the Super Bowl). And the players are going to file a grievance for being subjected to substandard officiating? Fair enough, as long as the refs get to file complains whenever the players play a substandard game.

  30. NFL refs may do less games than other sports but they also spend a LOT of time outside those games preparing for their job(often working another job on top of it).

    The money the NFL would lose from this is nothing compared to the disaster they’ll have on their hands the first time a replacement ref costs a team a game.

  31. Why is Brees held to a higher standard than any other player?? Last I checked it was Jon Stinchcomb who was the saints NFLPA rep not Brees. Trying to create controversy out of nothing for Brees. Its petty.

  32. The past officials blew plenty of calls as well. Anytime there are subjective calls to be made, some amount of human error will occur. Any one who watches this sport knows that calls will go for and against your team. Any good, professional team should be able to overcome a mistake of two.

  33. something needs to be done. that packer bengal game last night was horrible. they missed every pass interference call in the game and the flag they did throw in the secondary was for a legal hit lol these guys are a joke

  34. I think the replacements have been alright and are getting better. There aren’t 3 flags thrown on every play, this is a good thing. Let the boys play football.

  35. ah – the old you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone ruse.

    Yeah, these guys (and gal) have some issues but at least they seem to be able to get out of the way and run 20 yards without getting winded.

    The average age must’ve dropped 20 years and what they like in knowledge they make up for in spryness.

  36. “The players are the key to this one. As Peter King suggested earlier this week on PFT Live, at least one leader per team needs to speak out. Instead, Pats quarterback Tom Brady expressed nonchalance at the replacements last week — an emotion he surely won’t be projecting when a defensive lineman gives Brady a dirty look and a flag isn’t thrown.”


    It’s not the players responsibility. There shouldn’t be some kind of union solidarity between the players and the officials. The NFL is responsible to call games properly. The handful of part time officials that are locked out aren’t the only peoplein the world that can call a game properly. That is just nonsense. The replacement officials will be just fine. There have been some absolutely horrible game-changing calls in the last few years by the locked out officials anyway, so it can’t be much worse.

    Also… was that shot at Brady really called for?

  37. The refs are supposedly the first responders on the field. Does anyone honestly think that glorified high school refs are going to be as capae of doing the job as guys who have done this for years, and know the intricacies of the game with all of its complex rules?
    I can’t believe how many people are ok with the replacements handling the most important job on the field for the league.
    To say that they’re getting better is an acceptance of failure because it will take years for them to get to the level of the men who have done this job for years.
    I think the players don’t want to speak up because the don’t want to be the victim of un-favoritism when it comes to calls.

  38. For myself, the new refs may not be polished but they call as they see it with no consderation to what QB or player they throw the flag on. This really is refreshing to watch. No team can look at the officials and know what they can get away with. So some calls are not correct, we saw that many times with the regular refs but wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  39. If it was solely a monetary issue, I’d be totally for the locked out refs. It’s a drop in the bucket to the NFL, and the refs do deserve a bump. They’re the best in the world (As hard as that is to believe). But the fact they’re fighting against being graded for competence is where they lose me. We all know there are certain refs out there who are just awful, and should be held accountable.

    The NFL should put a drop dead date out there. If an agreement is not reached by that time, they’re fired and no longer eligible to ref NFL games. If they were to do this, they would have no problem getting the top rated college refs to accept these jobs. They won’t do this now because if they take the NFL jobs, they’ll lose their college gigs and once the regular officials come back, they’re all SOL.

  40. The replacements are already on board with the “Patriot Way”. Did you see that lopsided officiating affair Monday Night?

  41. The replacement refs make mistakes. The regular refs also make mistakes. I’d rather see how the replacement refs do in real games before bringing back known flawed officials like Ed Hoculi. I know he’s incompetent – I don’t know that any of the replacement refs are yet.

  42. I’m in favor of whatever deal ensures that Jeff Triplette and his crew never officiate another game as long as I live.

  43. The “first responders” label is kind of a joke..that’s the job of the trainers and team doctors.

    Hopefully this thing gets settled but I’m thinking it will go a couple of weeks into the season. The minute someone gets screwed that owner will put his foot down and it will be over.

  44. Yeah. Get over it. I watch for the owners. That’s where the entertainment is. The replacement refs should push for replacement players so they won’t look so bad. It’s not like the people on the field matter.

  45. In most occupations an experienced individual delivers higher quality more efficient results and is preferred over a less experienced individual (excluding mentoring/training situations, which this is not). How is this situation any different ?

    The types of errors and mistakes the replacements are making in pre-season would not be made by the regulars. The regulars make different types of mistakes on different types of calls. The replacements are blundering more basic fundamental calls.

    Get the experienced regulars back on the field, didn’t we suffer enough last year with the player lock-out ?

  46. Suppose hypothetically, many of the locked-out refs were influenced by gambling interests. Maybe the league wouldn’t want them back.

  47. Those who say that all refs make mistakes (which is, of course, true) miss the point. It’s not simply that these replacement refs miss calls, it’s that they don’t even appear to be aware of the rules of the game they are officiating.

  48. “The players and the NFLPA could be the only ones to break the current impasse, by putting enough pressure on the NFL to get back to the bargaining table. ”

    Why is this the NFL’s issue? What about the NFLRA? Should part-time referees really make $150,000 a year on their 2nd jobs? And they’re balking at a transition from a pension plan to a 401(k) plan? Hey, 80% of American workers have already made that transition if they’re lucky enough to even have a 401(k). Media shills being the exception, the vast majority of fans side with the NFL on this issue. The part-timers should count their blessings that they make more during football season alone than 90% of Americans make all year. It’s time for them to come back to the negotaiting table and sign the NFL’s offer.

  49. One point not mentioned is these guys make between $40,000.00 and $120,000.00 per season plus expences that is one heck of a partime gig.

    I would guess that everyone of them even with fulltime jobs will feel the hit when that cash stops I am sure they have that money earmarked for one thing or another.

    No matter what these guys do fulltime $60,000.00 not in the bank is a big hit.

    Plus think of the businesses that are effected
    Eye doctors are taking a hit as we know few of these refs can see.
    Also the seeing dog and cane market is going to take a hit sale of the record 3 blind mice will fall off.

    So this must be settled

  50. robertocfg says:

    “I really don’t get it. What’s the gap between the league and the referees? 12 million over 7 years?”

    You are right, you really don’t get it…

    The difference is $16 mil per YEAR over 7 years – or $106,000,000.00.

    You’re only $94,000,000.00 off…

    And then there is the fact that the NFLRA is fighting the grading of officials.

    If these guys (NFLRA refs) won’t police themselves (and they haven’t) – it only makes sense that their employer (the NFL) take steps to make sure that bad officials can be terminated.

  51. So tired of the pity party going on for the locked out refs. Funny, I have yet to see a replacement ref blowing a coin toss.

  52. kathleenturnersoverdrive says:Aug 24, 2012 10:08 AM

    Why is Brees held to a higher standard than any other player?? Last I checked it was Jon Stinchcomb who was the saints NFLPA rep not Brees. Trying to create controversy out of nothing for Brees. Its petty.

    I guess you haven’t checked for a while. Jon Stinchcomb got cut before the 2011 regular season.

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