As you no doubt have heard by now, the NFL has employed replacement referees this season while the regular referees are locked out. You can’t watch a football game now without someone like Jon Gruden or Phil Simms talk about how bad the new referees are. But does any football fan actually care? Is Roger Goodell right in saying that these officials are doing just fine? This is one of the few times that I will side with the Commissioner. The regular refs want more money, more job assignments, and a pension plan instead of a 401k plan. Remember that all the regular referees have other jobs. They are part-time NFL employees. They currently make about $149,000 per year. That’s a pretty good part-time job. Also, I don’t know about you, but I never had a part-time job with a pension. And I don’t think the NFL is crazy for wanting to create a performance based game assignment system (which the regular referees are against because apparently, they want to be able to have the same amount to work no matter how many blown calls they make).
If you happen to catch a football game or an episode of your favorite sports highlight show, you will be showered with reasons why the NFL needs the real officials back. Some of the most common reasons are:
1. “Their calls are horrible.” Ok, suppose no one informed you that the NFL was employing replacement referees. If you sat down and watched your favorite football team, would you notice much of a difference in officiating? I’m not saying that the replacement officials didn’t make mistakes, because they did. However, so have the other officials. Check out this holding call.
2. “The replacement referees don’t know the rules.” The new refs have had some trouble with spotting the ball and stopping the clock. Those mistakes are easy to correct and I expect that type of error to be fixed in the next two weeks. Remember, these referees did not get the amount of training time needed to start the season. It gets confusing out there. Just ask this regular referee.
3. “Someone’s going to get hurt out there.” Well yes, its football. Every coach player and fan will tell you that injuries are a part of the game. Regular referee supporters seem to be stretching for this one. Plus, does anyone see a regular referee throw a flag on this hit? Or this hit?
It’s obvious that the NFL feels that the replacement referees are not much worse than the ones they use to have. I have to say I agree. If the regular referees want higher pay and more work, they should try doing a better job instead of demanding unwarranted benefits. I’m sure when Ed Hochuli was an up and coming lawyer he had to earn his pay though his performance. I’m pretty sure Scott Green doesn’t give pension plans to his interns at his D.C. lobbying firm.
The truth is that the locked out referees have no leverage. Football fans will continue to watch no matter who the referees are and the only players who voice their opinion are the ones who are not 2-0. Which is why I say that until the old referees start treating their $149,000 job like a full time job, the NFL shouldn’t treat them like full time employees.