If you read some of my earlier postings, you'll know I said that no matter how bad the officating is, I adamantly refuse to ever blame the referees for a loss, nor give them credit for a win. However, while on the road yesterday, I was listening to the NFL Network on Sirius Radio. If you love football like I know you do and don't have Sirius, then you are missing great football talk by great hosts ALL DAY LONG! Great hosts, interviews with players, coaches and excellent fans' questions and comments. Get it- NOW! It's worth the monthly cost itself, not to mention you get tons of great music, Howard Stern (uncensored=great!), Playboy Radio (insert driving while listening rude comments here!) and EVERY NFL game, both the home and away feeds.
Anyway, back to my original point. Yesterday, the hosts were both Pat Kirwin and former Dallas Cowboy GM Gil Brandt. They were discussing the state of the officiating in the NFL and the recent rash of poor calls in close games. They focused on the opinions of many (including me) that you shouldn't blame a loss on the refs because of letting the game be so close in the first place for one play or call to make the difference. Brandt's comment, and you've got to have tons of respect for his insight into the game, was that the playing field is so incredibly level and the competition is so strong between even the strongest and weakest teams, that one play or call can absolutely make the difference in a game. He went on to say that when he was the GM, there was a huge difference between the best and worst teams and there rarely was the types of upsets we see with regularity week after week nowadays. The salary cap has brought the ability to compete and give hope to every NFL team, at least until the season starts. On the other hand, in MLB for example (where there is no salary cap), you know which teams are already out of it next season (such as my Baltimore Orioles), and even though the Tampa Rays have become a good team, you pretty much can list the also-rans every year. In the NFL however, any team can leap to the top of the league, and can drop to the bottom, thanks mostly to the salary cap.
But we digress. I am in the process of believing that I am having an epiphany over this situation and am beginning to see the value in what Brandt said. The games are so close, as there are so few that are blowouts each week. Even the games with double digit point spreads rarely cover (Giants, Cowboys over Bengals) and sometimes even result in upsets (Dolphins over Pats). The pro athletes are so good that one play can set the tone of the game and change it from a win to a loss, or vice versa. Thus, the same thing must then go for the officiating as well. One obvious bad call can take a well played close game and turn it in one team's favor. This might not actually win or lose the game for a team, but it certainly can set the wheels in motion, change momentum and turn the tide (like the cliche's?).
While I am not flat out changing my stance on the officials' definite effect on the outcome of games, it has seemed to be dramatically worse in critical times this season. The game has gotten so fast with the athletes bigger and stronger and too quick for even six officials (?) to monitor every bit of every play. The replay option has helped at times, but needs to be expanded to include so much more opportunities for the review of close plays or calls. I realize the league doesn't want to see the games going four or five hours, but I'm sure every team and fan would not have a problem of extending the time it took to complete a game if it meant getting the calls correct.
This is a great topic to debate and we could all list specific plays in games that were "affected." What say you?