Two weeks into the season, the replacement officials are still a main topic of conversation during the broadcast of NFL games. Sitting back on my couch, taking in all the talk while watching all the action, I’ve got to tell you, these officials remind me of the old officials. They’re wearing the zebra attire and at times have that same dazed and confused look on their faces.

At halftime of the Sunday night game Bob Costas told us there were comments critical of the officials on the second sunday of the season. We then heard a soundbite of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who calmly threw around the word “integrity,” disagreeing with an official’s ruling of pass interference negating a touchdown pass that would have sealed a Baltimore. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan then made some benign comment hoping the real officials would get back to work soon. All harmless stuff.

If I didn’t know the real officials were at home, I’d think they were on the field. Are games a bit longer this year because of the replacement officials indecisiveness? Yes. Have they screwed up more than the other guys? Yes again. Do they know the complex rules of the NFL as well as the folks they are replacing? No. Do the players know the rules? No. Do the game announcers know all the rules? No. Do the coaches know all the rules? They probably think they do, but they don’t. After all these are the same coaches who need a chart to tell them when to go for a two point conversion and still screw it up.

What I’m trying to say is that while the replacement officials are worse than the regular ones, the guys seeking a better deal from the NFL are far from ideal.

One of my standard lines doing 18 seasons of “Around The NFL” on network radio was “the official was in perfect position to blow the call,” (and more times than not he did).

Replay was brought in for a reason - To correct mistakes. It began in the mid 1980’s, then dropped a handful of years later only to return in 1999. It returned because of a horrific call on the final play of a Jets-Seahawks game the previous season. On the play, Vinny Testaverde was stopped short of the end zone. It wasn’t even close. However the officials ruled a touchdown and the Jets won by a point. The Seahawks did not make the playoffs and Dennis Erickson got fired (he might have been fired even if Phil Luckett and his crew didn’t blow the call).

Ben RoethlisbergerICONSeahawks fans will argue that poor officiating led to Big Ben's victory, and their loss, in the Super Bowl.

There are those who thought poor officiating gave the Steelers a Super Bowl win over Seattle.

Ed Hochuli, a lawyer by trade blew a critical call in a Denver-San Diego game a few years back.

The original “Hail Mary” of Staubach to Pearson never should have been. Pearson shoved Nate Wright and should have been called for offensive pass interference.

I can go on and on. I seem to recall many a Monday when the league would have to apologize to teams and the public because of an officiating screw up on Sunday. The NFL is partly to blame for putting together a book of rules that are stupidly complex.


It’s the standard excuse in all sports when an official makes a mistake. They’re only human, and they are. However my question is are they the best humans the sport get hire to officiate their game? The answer of course is no.

Baseball has full time umps, but should get ones who’s belly’s don’t get in the way of their feet getting wet while taking a shower. Being physically fit should be required.

NFL officials are fit, but they’re also lawyers, teachers, inventors and entrepreneurs. At the NFL level, with what’s at stake each and every week and with the billions generated by the game, all officials should just be officials. That doesn’t mean mistakes won’t be made, after all they’re humans too. Full time officials dedicated to only one profession, working year round on honing their craft, have to be better than what we had and what we have now and what we will have when the real refs return..

It’s also hard to believe that in this day and age with all the technology we have, that the critical call of where the football is spotted, where a fraction of an inch can decide a teams fate is still done the old fashioned. The same way it was done when the game was invented.

Maybe some things should stay in the hands of humans. The best possible humans we can get to officiate our games. 

Bob Berger is a 35-year veteran of sports radio. For the last 18 seasons Bob hosted "Around The NFL" on Network Radio. He's on the Panel of Voters for the Associated Press NFL All-Pro team and post season awards. In recent years Bob hosted weekends on Yahoo Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio and One On One Sports. He is a graduate of the University of Miami.