What’s next for the replacements?

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Hollywood eventually made a movie out of the 1987 players’ strike, from the perspective of the cup-of-coffee replacements who played.  Now that the lockout of officials has ended after becoming national news, could Keanu Reeves be playing the role of Brian Stropolo?


Until then, it makes sense to consider what happens in the coming weeks and months with the folks who served as replacement officials.  It’s likely if not definite that none will ever be hired by the NFL to be regular officials.  Apart from the fact that the NFL culled the crews from multiple levels deep, the locked-out officials will never welcome folks who are regarded as “scabs” into the family.

Then there’s the taint (yeah, Beavis, I said taint) that applies to all of the replacements as a result of the Week Three officiating debacles.  If any replacement ever becomes good enough to work at the NFL level, the fact that he (or she) served as a replacement in 2012 will be viewed as a negative.

Few if any will even become major-college officials, at least not until the regular NFL officials who serve as supervisors of officiating for multiple major conferences move on.  Beyond that, the stigma of being part of the biggest officiating debacle in modern sports history will make these folks, to a certain degree, radioactive.

The most intriguing possibility from our perspective is a tell-all book.  We’ve got a feeling, however, that the contracts signed by the replacements include strong language preventing them from talking or writing about what they learned, witnessed, heard, etc. while working for the NFL.

Look for sports and news organizations to at least try to get these folks to talk.  If none do, the message is clear:  The NFL wisely purchased their silence preemptively.

56 responses to “What’s next for the replacements?

  1. These guys were not in their twenties. Most looked to be in their 40’s if not older.

    They were never going to be NFL officials, and then they were never going to be major college football officials. Some of them weren’t even working above the arena league level.

    These guys had reached their ceiling as football refs. They were never, ever, going any higher and they knew it. That’s why the agreed to be scabs.

    They knew it wouldn’t hurt their future prospects because they had no future prospects.

  2. What’s next for them? They go back to their regular jobs, and their customers come to the door and throw joke yellow flags. “Personal foul, taking longer than 30 minutes to deliver my pizza, 19 yard penalty, TOUCHDOWN!”

  3. Based on the fact that the replacements as a whole were terrible, even the “scabs” that did a decent job will never get another shot in the NFL. That being said, I hope that the Packers will miss the playoffs by one game. Thanks replacements! I enjoyed it. Job well done.

  4. The replacement refs weren’t that bad but the media decided to make it a crisis and crucify them for sport. These guys are hosed as football season is in full swing and the officiating jobs are all full.

    So for keeping the NFL going for a month, these guys get hosed in the media, blackballed by the greedy rich union and frozen out of jobs for the rest of the year. Nice.

  5. The replacement refs were frustrating for me too, but cut them some slack, guys. They obviously are in officiating for a reason, and had the opportunity of a lifetime to be immediately thrust into the NFL.

    It’s like a someone who works at Guitar Center being asked to fill in on guitar for one of the biggest bands in the world.

    Would you say no?

  6. The real fault is with the players and coaches who disrespected the replacements. If they (players and coaches) had acted like true professionals, the replacments would not have been under so much pressure. They would have been able to call a fair game, to the best of their ablilties. We all know that the regular zebras have blown, or decided games with a bad call. It happens! The replacments never had a chance because the players, coaches, and media never gave them a chance.

  7. These guys weren’t bad people, trying to screw over the players and the fans, just under qualified people looking to feed their families and fulfill a dream. I would like to read a book about their experiences. I think it would interesting!

  8. Or in a much less dramatic and reasonable fashion each individual ref will be reviewed on their individual performance when and if they seek further employment.

  9. I for one am glad they were there to officiate the games. It really allowed everyone to see how good the NFL Refs are but you can bet in just a short time people will be complaining about lousy calls again. That is just the nature of not getting calls to go your way. Thanks again replacement refs. All the best.

  10. Put them in the booth with the announcers, put them on the sets of NFL Today, Football Night in America, etc.; and let them critique the work done by the “real” refs.

    It only seems fair.

  11. Well said cuda1234. And anyone who uses the term “scab” is one of those losers that need union representation because they lack a sought after skill set or they actually believe that everyone can join a union when in fact that is just not true. Unions are for elitist, not the common man as they like to portray themselves.

  12. Mike, the replacement officials had most of their issues with todays pass happy NFL on the interference rules and calls. The regular officials have similar problems because they are often not able to run. The NFL should consider hiring and training younger officials who are able to be in better position to make a call due to being younger and more mobile.

  13. What I love were the geniuses on sports talk radio who told us, “Who are these refs who want to make $150,000 to referee for half the year? I would do that job for half that amount.” In which case, of course, they would have been just one more of the “replacement refs.”

  14. Who cares? Hopefully they won’t be too irritating as they grow older, yet continue to harass friends and relatives with stories. “Back in ’82 i could throw a yellow flag over those mountains”.

  15. Am quite sure these guys made more money these three weeks than they would the entire season elsewhere. This was never going to be permanent.
    To criticize every single one and just lump them all together is rather idiotic. There were quite a few who did respectable jobs given the circumstances.

  16. We owe alot to these officials. Without them the season would have been on hold.

    Plus I love how they showed the Pack that not every call can go their way.

    Besides the slowness of the games I really dont think these refs where much worse than the full timers. But this is from a Chargers fan who remembers how Hochuli, a SB ref, can make a mistake bigger than Monday nights. Its different when you arent a Pack/Pats/Steelers fan and calls actually go both ways.

  17. Get themselves in the man cave, on the couch, crack a beer, salsa dem nachos,.,. and enjoy the games!

    Maybe now they’re ready for some football, cuz they weren’t for the past 2 months!

  18. Wait, didn’t the refs and the NFL agree to have a referee development program or whatever? Where they have refs on the bench learning from the real refs and can be called upon if the real ref does poorly. Why not put them there?

  19. sj39-

    I used the term scab and I own my own business and have never been in a union or allowed union crews to work on my projects.

    I call them scabs because these guy undermined people in their own profession although they would gladly suck up the benefits of membership in the NFLRA if it were ever offered to them, which it never will be because they lack the skill set necessary to advance beyond the lowest levels of their profession.

    Let’s not glorify these guys like underdog heroes. They grabbed an opportunity to make a few bucks and get on TV. It’s not like they volunteered to fight in a life of death battle to save democracy.

  20. Next is they return to Division III or wherever, better officials and some great stories to tell.

    They did their best; I don’t believe for a second hey didn’t give any less than 100%.

    Blame goes to the owners who undervalued the regular refs, thankfully they let their pride waiver a little.

  21. I’d love to see the preemptive agreement language, pretty hard to contract away your rights not to be able to freely talk about anything you want to talk about, so long as you are creative with your word choices to not break any technical rules.

  22. I agree w/many above that they gave their best, and never meant to influence the game. Maybe the skill set was lacking, but they tried. Now I was to see how the union boys do? Will they get the same media bashing the replacements got? I certainly hope so!!
    The good replacements deserve a shot at whatever level they choose!

  23. I feel bad for the replacements. The pro atmosphere is a much different element than say a highschool game. Yes, they have ref’d at to some extent prior to the NFL, but they were thrown in the fire clearly and they were’nt ready. I mean, would you with over an audience of a million plus? Def would like to hear their accounts of the experience in the league.

  24. Regardless of what they did or didn’t do on the field, they don’t deserve to be insulted for whatever their FT jobs are.

  25. I’ll miss how they let defensive backs play pass defense again. Granted, their calls were woefully inconsistent and they couldn’t spot the ball worth a damn, but the replacement officials held up admirably under near-impossible circumstances. My hope is that all people who criticized the replacements for blown calls will be equally if not more critical on the better compensated real officials when they happen. I wont be holding my breath, though

  26. I’m sure those guys (and gal) are collectively shaking their fists at the GB/SEA replacement crew for ruining their gravy train. Heck, this could have turned into a permenant gig if they had performed adequately!

  27. This Packer fan says, and I mean this . . . damn good effort guys. Damn good.

    They were put in an IMPOSSIBLE position with minimal (for the NFL) skills and gave it their all.

    I don’t care if my Packers miss the playoffs by one game, I applaud these people for the effort.

    Now, about the Owners …

  28. “It’s likely if not definite that none will ever be hired by the NFL to be regular officials.”

    Not so fast. As the NFL ultimately decides who is hired, its almost guaranteed at least a few will get NFL jobs. If not, the NFLRA would let that fact be known among working officials and the NFL would never be able to hire replacement refs again. Its a basic tenant of labor-management disputes that when replacements are used, labor tries to freeze them out and management assures at least a token few remain.

    It won’t be many – I’d bet the over/under on hiring refs from the replacement ranks would be 3, with maybe a few more down the road. Most replacements know they never would be able to ref at the NFL level, either because they’re too old or because they’ve already had enough poor evaluations to realize they weren’t going to advance to the top. Any of them who had truly bonehead calls during their replacement audition know they’ve seen the last of the NFL from the field.

  29. For being thrown into a bad situation, overall they did an amazing job. Nothing that a little more experience couldn’t fix. I’m not convinced that they did that much worse that the regular refs, especially when you look back at a few recent playoff debacles. Seattle/Pittsburgh Superbowl, Vikings-Saint NFC championship, and the Greenbay-Giants game last year were as badly officiated as any replacement ref game was this year and these were with, supposedly, the cream of the crop refs.

  30. One other point: In the 2001 lock-out, Ed Hochuli was head of the NFLRA. He sent out an email with the same threat – work as a replacement and you’ll never work in the NFL again – though he says he later regretted it.

    You’ll notice no such threats were publicly issued this time. Its because the refs got smart – current and former NFL refs had moved into key supervisory positions at major conferences and all said to the current major college refs, “you become an NFL replacement ref you’re fired from college work.”

    That was a brilliant tactic the NFL likely hadn’t considered. Most fans don’t remember the 2001 strike because 9/11 overshadowed it. But I guarantee the owners and refs remember. What the owners remember is the major college refs actually did a good job. The refs remember that was the impression left on the media too, which is why they took the tack they did.

  31. What’s next for the replacement refs? I’m sure they will go back to whatever they were doing before they were hired by the NFL.

    I say shame on Mike Florio for insinuating that because of these three weeks that these refs are now “unemployable”. Think about it this way, 3 weeks of games, 16 games per week, average about 120 plays a game. That was 5,760 plays that were officiated by these refs, and the outcry is over what is only a handful of really bad calls. Considering that these guys never saw football at the speed of the NFL before, plus the pressure of officiating in the midst of 70,000 plus the millions watching on TV, and the stigma of being “scabs”, I give these guys all the credit in the world, and commend for performing well under the circumstances.

  32. As usual, good article Mike! These people knew what they were getting into when they signed on, made some good fast cash on the side which I don’t fault them for. The real culprits here are the greedy Owners and the power thirsty and arrogant NFL who has the integrity of slime. Player safety? Protecting the shield? Integrity of the game?…Pffft! It would be interesting to compare the rate of injuries during this three week period to past years. From where I was sitting there were more serious injuries this year because of mayhem on the field than I’ve ever seen plus of course those from horsecollar tackles that weren’t called, various personal fouls etc.!

  33. A few years ago I went to watch my 9 year old niece play basketball in her YMCA league. The refs were a pair of girls who must have been about 14 years old. Parents were screaming at these girls the entire game with everything short of death threats, dropping f-bombs and insulting their looks. If you think refs don’t experience pressure until they arrive in the NFL, think again. It is a truly thankless job under the best conditions. The replacement refs were not given the best conditions, they were setup to fail by by the owners, players, media, fans, and regular refs.

    They should all be given a large cash bonus and a first class vacation wherever they want.

  34. While football players may be legit tough guys, many fans of the sport come off as whiney, entitled babies! The refs didn’t perform to your liking? The calls didn’t go your teams way? Big deal, get over yourself! The union refs are going to get back to work, and the whiney entitled baby fans will complain about them, and it won’t take long either!

  35. Hey these guys got to do a job at the highest level. Who wouldn’t jump at that chance. On the whole they did a good job learning (mostly) the rules of a different league. Without them, we would have had no NFL. That would have been unacceptable.

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