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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

‘Worst Call In NFL History’ Spotlights Replacement Ref Performance

One official, left, signals a Seattle Seahawks touchdown, while the other official signals a touchback for the Green Bay Packers, Monday night in Seattle. (AP)

One official, left, signals a Seattle Seahawks touchdown, while the other official signals a touchback for the Green Bay Packers, Monday night in Seattle. (AP)

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King called it one of the great disgraces in NFL history, when a Green Bay Packers interception of a hail mary pass Monday night was ruled a touchdown for the Seattle Seahawks.

The call was made by replacement referees that are officiating games during a contract dispute between the NFL and the league’s regular officials.

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said he had never seen anything like the call in all his years of football.

And Wisconsin state senator John Erpenbach tweeted out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s phone number.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who became a national figure when he went after public employee unions last year, even sent out a tweet calling for the return of the NFL’s locked-out unionized officials following the call.

The NFL has released a statement saying that there was an error in the call, but they upheld the result.

Replacement Refs Hurting The Game

Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim looked at the data from the first three weeks of NFL games with the replacement refs and concluded in an upcoming article that the officials have hurt the game:

Upon review, it’s impossible not to conclude that the replacements are inferior. It’s not that this season’s unofficial officials are calling more penalties. It’s the types of penalties they’re calling. It’s when they are making— and not making— calls. It’s which teams are, to use the term of art, getting hosed. Overall the data suggest that the replacement refs are, if not outright bad, certainly highly vulnerable to the types of behavioral biases and social pressures we expect officials to overcome.

Wertheim writes that the statistics point to an inferior performance by the replacement refs in everything from defensive pass interference calls to personal fouls:

Personal fouls are being called at the highest rate since 2000. Maybe this is the “substitute- teacher effect,” i.e., the players are testing the new authority figures. But the replacement refs may also fear losing control and having their authority undermined.

Wertheim is calling on the NFL to quickly resolve the dispute:

Now it’s time for the NFL to face the facts, make the necessary concessions and replace the replacements with the real thing.


  • Wes Hodkowitz, reporter for the Green Bay Press Gazette

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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