NFL referees, both those who are currently locked out and their retired predecessors, have been nearly unanimous in harshly criticizing the replacement officials. But Ben Dreith is an exception.
Dreith, who officiated in the NFL and AFL for 31 years, is best known for once turning on his microphone and saying, “Personal foul on 99 of the defense: After he tackled the quarterback he’s givin’ them the business down there. That’s a 15-yard penalty.” Now 87 years old, Dreith lives in Denver and says he watches every Broncos game, and he said he believes Broncos coach John Fox has gone too far in giving the officials the business on the sideline.
“They’re doing a good job and they’re going to get better every game,” Dreith told the Denver Post. “Now, I watched both [Broncos] games and I watched the preseason, and they cannot tell me, Fox cannot tell me, this reporter can’t tell me, that they did anything to lose a ballgame for somebody. The coaches and the press never should have started this in the first place about the officials unless something drastically happened where one of the replacement officials lost a ballgame for somebody.”
Dreith pointed out that not losing a ballgame for somebody is something that Ed Hochuli, one of the NFL’s highest-profile referees and a former president of the NFL Referees Association, can’t claim: Hochuli wrongly ruled a play dead in a 2008 Chargers-Broncos game, handing Denver a win that should have gone to San Diego.
“He blew the whistle at the wrong time, and that is the cardinal sin in officiating,” Dreith said. “He lost a ballgame for San Diego. These officials have never lost a ballgame for anybody.”
That’s exactly the message the NFL will want to keep repeating. Until the replacements do lose a ballgame for somebody.