It’s become increasingly clear in recent weeks that the replacement officials aren’t ready for the biggest stage in the sport they’ve chosen.
The problem seems to be that the junior junior varsity can’t adjust to the pressure of making (or not making) calls at the NFL level. From the size and speed of the players to the voices of the coaches to the taunts of the fans in attendance to the blanket of TV cameras, there’s a sense of paralysis that routinely keeps the replacements from making quick, efficient, and confident decisions.
They want to get it right, but they can’t get it right quickly. And that’s not something one four-game preseason on the job will fix, at least not for the full complement of replacements.
Peter King shares in MMQB an anecdote from one of the final preseason games that the league should find troubling, to say the least: “Official calls defensive pass-interference in front of the penalized team’s bench. Head coach lambastes the official. Official picks up the flag, tells the coach he’s not going to make the call. Coach is stunned. Imagine what will happen when something’s actually at stake.”
And so, with the games that count only two days away, the league needs to find a way to thicken the skin of the replacements, getting them to tune out the coaches and the players and the crowd and the millions of eyes crawling on their skin and treat the game like it’s a game at the level to which they’re more accustomed.
It would be far easier, relatively speaking, to find a way to get the real officials back on the job. Here’s hoping that happens.