Nothing will ever match the ineptitude of last year's replacement refs. They couldn't keep up with the pace of the game. They made obvious blunders. They ruined the on-field product so badly that the NFL caved and we all celebrated the return of the real refs, who performed so much better than their scab counterparts.
Then there's this year. For the most part NFL refs have been fine. They're not perfect. They make mistakes. And there's the same old inconsistencies with holding and P.I. and all that stuff that's always been annoying.
Then there are a handful of weird plays, all at the ends of big games, that involve obscure rules, or questionable rule interpretations, or forgetting what down it is.
The Patriots and Jets played an overtime game that turned when the Pats were flagged for pushing each other while attempting to block a hopelessly long field goal. Two Sundays ago the Patriots were in Charlotte and the game ended with a pass interference flag being picked up. And this past Sunday the Redskins were apparently given a 1st down, which was actually 3rd down, then the refs caught the "mistake" and reset the dial-a-down to indicate a 4th down. They also failed to measure the very close 1st down that wasn't actually a 1st down.
Mike Shanahan probably didn't ask for a measurement since he seemed to think his team already had a 1st down.
It's just weird that these things are happening. That was replacement level incompetence in the Redskins game. I haven't seen that pushing penalty called since the Pats/Jets game. And few people who don't work for the NFL think it was correct for the officials to pick up the P.I. flag in the Pats/Panthers game.
There was also the Steelers game on Thanksgiving, in which the refs took a touchdown off the board because the ball carrier's helmet was knocked off half a second before he scored a touchdown.
Is there a conspiracy? I doubt it.
Or do I?
Are a group of rogue referees trying to get revenge on the NFL for last year's lockout? Have they decided to spoil the endings of close marquee NFL games with confusion? They waited until the end of the game to penalize the Patriots for their pushing. They tried to go back in take a touchdown from the Steelers. They royally screwed up the end of the Redskins game, and never paused to explain the confusion to anyone on either sideline.
Lack of explanation is another trend in these calls. Belichick didn't get one in Carolina. Shanahan didn't get one Sunday night.
How many times have we heard football pundits and talking heads say "I've never seen anything like this," in regards to officials this year?
It's almost too odd. And keep in mind, the crew that officiated that Steelers game also did the Pats/Panthers game with that waved off pass interference in the end zone.
And three of these four games were nationally televised. The Steelers and Redskins games were on NBC, the Pats/Panthers game was on a Monday Night. Three were divisional matchups. Three were rivalry games. And 6 of the 7 different teams involved are among the NFL's most popular. The teams involved have also won 9 of the last 13 Super Bowls.
It's just too weird for the best football refs to make such bizarre decisions at the endings of big games. A little too weird.