Monday night was a case in point. It took nearly an hour and a half to get the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos out of the first quarter. Replay officials reversed three on-field calls in the first 30 minutes of the game. Beyond that, the referees gave a fumble recovery to the Falcons despite the fact that a Bronco came out of the pile with the ball – leading to an on-field shoving match among the players. At another point, the referees mistakenly gave the Broncos 11 yards for what should have been a five-yard penalty.
Michael McCann, a sports law expert at Vermont Law School, gave the replacements' overall Week 2 effort a C-minus.
“The replacement officials are in way over their heads, and they can’t control the game at this level,” writes Bryan Burwell, a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “With the replacements on the field … NFL games were teetering on the edge of uncontrolled, borderline riots.”
The union representing the 121 regular NFL referees wants higher pay – the referees now share an annual salary package of $18 million – and better retirement benefits, all of which would cost each team approximately an extra $100,000 a year. The league says it wants to keep the status quo.
The lockout has led to one historic moment: Shannon Eastin, a college referee, became the first woman to referee an NFL game. But the replacements may also be tarnishing the league's reputation.
One official was ousted just a few hours before from refereeing a New Orleans Saints game after it became known that he was a Saints fan. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy noted on Philadelphia’s 94WIP radio station that the replacement refs are “like fans.… One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team, like, ‘McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy.’ Uhh, what?”