The substitute teachers have been relieved of duty and the real ones are back on the job. By that, we really mean the NFL and the referees have struck a deal to bring back the authentic zebras starting tonight when the Baltimore Ravens take on the Cleveland Browns.
Week three’s games were a bit of an adventure for the replacement refs, where they made some questionable calls that changed the trajectory of a few games. It all came to a head Monday night when the Seahawks-Packers game ended with a crazy flurry of indecision and confusion.
On the game’s last play, Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate clearly committed pass interference before jumping up to try to grab a ball that looked like Green Bay cornerback M.D. Jennings had intercepted. The refs ignored the interference and said Tate had “simultaneous possession” with Jennings and awarded the Seahawks a questionable TD.
The botched call gave Seattle a win most everyone (except Seahawks fans) thought should have been Green Bay’s. The media, blogosphere, Twitterverse and all other places where NFL fans and players could sound off, blew up with cries to get the refs back. By late Wednesday night, their voices were heard and the NFL cut a deal.
What surprised us more than the bad calls — because, really, the regular refs make plenty of bad calls — it was the flow of the game. Because the replacements didn’t fully grasp the NFL rulebook, there were many occasions when games had to be stopped for extended periods of time where they had to discuss a play. And on some occasions, after the discussion they still got the rule wrong and a person from the league would have to run onto the field to correct them. Games started moving very slowly and got frustrating to watch.
It became just like when you have a substitute teacher in class. Admit it, you see what you can get away with. The players were no different. Defensive backs practically dared the replacement refs to call a penalty on them with their physical play. And the increase in physical play on the line cause scuffles to break out after many plays in week three.
But now the real refs are back, and the players better be on their best behavior. Games will be better this weekend; just don’t expect every call to be perfect.