When the NFL used replacement players during the 1987 season, it was a huge mistake due to the obvious inferior product that was put on the field. The National Football League showcases the best athletes in the world and when fans pay big bucks to come to the games while others sit at home and tune in, they expect to see the best.
In order to officiate the game's best players, they need the game's best officials. The game is faster than ever and the rules need to be interpreted effectively and quickly to keep the game in control and the playing field "level." When inexperienced referees take the place of the regular officials, the product on the field is compromised to the point of embarrassment.
When the NFL locked out the players last year, there was the threat of not starting the season on time, because there was no way the league was going to use replacement players ever again. When the league and the officials could not reach an agreement on a new contract, the league barely flinched as they trained and put in these replacements without nary a worry.
However, after watching through the pre-season and the first two weeks of the regular season, the difference in officiating is blatantly obvious and downright embarrassing. Not to say that any game, including the Baltimore Ravens 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, has been decided by the poor calls or the non-calls, but there is certainly the question.
It is too late to change what has transpired in the first two weeks, but the league needs to get off its high-horse and settle this issue immediately. It might have even been better off to delay the start of the season until they could negotiate the new deal. The lack of consistency and enforcement of the rules has been ridiculous and continues to give zero hope that improvement is anywhere in the future.
The NFL is cheating the coaches, players and fans by putting an inferior product on the field every game and until the "real" referees get back out there, the bruise around the league's black eye of this issue will continue to darken.