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An open letter to Roger Goodell

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An open letter to Roger Goodell Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Dear Commissioner Goodell,

Enough is enough.

I don't pretend to understand all of the particulars in your beef with the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA). I'm sure that there are a lot of details beneath the surface that make your differences a lot more complex than they might seem from the outside. How much of this mess is directly attributable to you is unclear, but you're the one who needs to clean it up. You need to talk to your bosses and change their tunes. You need to tuck your tail between your legs and do whatever it takes to get those guys back on the field.

Otherwise, that Monday night debacle in Seattle is just the end of the beginning.

Millions of football fans have spent the past three weeks watching the games we enjoy rapidly devolve into a complete circus that borders on unwatchable; they might as well be playing calliope music over the PA system. We're nearly a quarter of the way through the NFL season and every single one of the nearly 50 games played thus far has been overly long, overly chaotic and overly dangerous.

These replacement officials aren't bad guys. And they're probably not bad officials when they're working games in Division III. But this is the big leagues. This is the biggest of the big leagues. This is a live performance for 70,000-plus with a broadcast audience of millions. After watching these guys for five minutes, it becomes painfully clear that they simply aren't ready for prime time. This isn't Amherst-Williams; it's a multi-billion dollar industry an industry whose product has been undeniably tainted.

You pay a lot of lip service to the idea of 'protecting the shield.' You claim that player safety is a priority, pointing to jointly-funded concussion studies and the (horribly bungled) punishments meted out in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. And yet, putting these incompetent officials on the field might put these players in even greater danger. The lack of control being exerted on the field is leading to more and more dangerous situations.

For instance, Oakland receiver Darius Heyward-Bey was carted off the field on a stretcher after an unflagged helmet-to-helmet hit. Could the same thing have happened with the regular officials on the field? Absolutely. Would it have happened? Hard to say, although we can safely assume the union refs would never have let the on-field action reach such a level of chaos.

(I'm not going to delve into particulars with regards to individual bad calls. Every game has seen egregious errors. We've all been affected, no matter which team we root for. Every team has gotten jobbed more than once this season. I will say, however, that you probably owe the fine folks of Wisconsin the first apology.)

All this leaves aside the overall drop in quality in the NFL experience. Don't get me wrong; I don't expect officials in any sport to be perfect. They're only human. However, I do expect officials to display a solid grasp of the rules of the game. I expect them to be capable of spotting the ball within a yard of where it's supposed to be. I expect them to be capable of keeping track of how many timeouts a team has. There are always going to be tough calls. It's when the easy ones cause five minute delays that we get a little frustrated.

These replacements have significantly altered your game. You realize that, right? The game that has been played these past three weeks is a pale imitation of the NFL, little more than a sad slapstick. Violations are called (or not called) for no discernible reason. Every time an official turns on his microphone, his face is a portrait in terrified confusion. It's just bad news all around.

When all is said and done, my opinion on the matter is summarized nicely by the fine fans of Baltimore, who chanted their feelings loudly and proudly for over a minute on national television.



Allen Adams


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