The NFL won’t admit it but it’s time for the NFL officials to get back to work before the replacement officials screw this season up. It’s no longer preseason, these games count now! We’re not talking about holding calls or defensive pass interference, it’s obvious that the replacement officials are struggling with game administration despite having a league supervisor on the field to help them make the right call. This current band-aid system is not working. At what point will the NFL go back to the negotiation table? ESPN’s Adam Sheftner reported Monday evening “the NFL has created an itinerary for (the replacements) to stay employed and work through week five”. The NFL office has their fingers crossed that the replacement officials improve in a hurry, but I don’t see that happening and I’m not the only one, I’m sure.
The St. Louis Rams had a few opportunities to put last Sundays game against the Detroit Lions away and struggled to seal the deal, no thanks to the replacement officials towards the end. Did the Rams run into a play clock issue? The game clock had 2:38 remaining in the game on Sunday. Fisher explained in his presser Monday afternoon that they could run a play and take the clock down to the 2 minute warning, forcing the Lions to burn their last team time out. The only way the play clock would run out before the two minute warning, was if the play in question only took a few seconds.
While Sam Bradford is a very good athlete and runs a good forty yard dash, it is astronomically impossible for this play to only take three seconds. He was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled to his right towards the Rams bench, he slid in bounds as Steven Jackson came to his aid, protecting him from the big hit, they both tumbled out of bounds. This play should have not stopped the clock because he was down in the field of play, despite his momentum carrying him out of bounds. As I stood on the field just a few feet away from the play, Fisher quickly shouted verbal instructions to members of his staff and a few team officials to quiet down as they yelled and screamed while pointing at the game clock which was not moving, despite Bradford sliding in bounds.
The play clock is under supervision of the back judge, it is his responsibility to make sure the play clock gets started. The line judge in this case, Shannon Eastin (first female official in NFL history), is responsible for the game clock. At the end of the play she worked her way through the sea of bodies to spot the ball with a major delay giving the “wind the clock signal” for several seconds. Because this didn’t take place immediately, Fisher was forced to burn a team time out, because now he can’t get to the two minute warning. The play clock was started too early and no one caught it on the field including the replacement officials. Once the officials recognize the issues they have the power to sync both the play clock and game clock to whatever the referee feels is correct. In this situation, the clocks should have been reset to make sure the Rams got to the two minute warning.
Question: Would the NFL officials had recognized this oversight and corrected it? Most likely!
This replacement official debacle really hurt the Rams. Instead of the Rams taking the clock down to the two minute warning, then running another play with Steven Jackson and chewing up more time off the clock, forcing the Lions to use their last time out, and the Rams kicking a field goal would have changed the complexity of the game. Detroit would have gotten the ball after the Rams’ kickoff with about 1:40 remaining. As the game played out, Matthew Stafford made several big throws down the middle of the field, not only because he had time on the clock, but more importantly, one time out remaining. Take the time out away and this would have forced the Lions to throw the ball to the sideline making it easier for the Rams to defend.
In my opinion this was not a game clock operator error only. The game clock operator is a NFL employee that lives in the area or city of the NFL franchise. It is really easy to blame these folks, but in reality this was a replacement official making a game administration mistake. Where is the Integrity of the game? Not having the NFL officials on the field is not about the request for extra officials or making officials full time, this again is about defined benefits (retirement package) that were taken away from the NFL officials. The Lockout is about money.
This is like a volcano that is about to blow, the plates are shifting, the lava is rising and a disaster is about to hit each and every NFL landscape. As soon as an NFL owner starts complaining behind the scenes about a blown call that changes the outcome of a game for his team, the regular crew will be back. It’s coming very soon.