The NFL’s lockout of its game officials has led to many complaints about the performance of the replacement officials who have worked the games since the start of the 2012 season. The Boston Globe tracks some of the most glaring incidents since the regular season started:
- Officials admitted awarding an extra timeout to Seattle in its Week 1 loss to Arizona. The error did not impact the result of the game, however, with the Cardinals winning 20-16.
- Overall, there was not a huge uproar about the performance of the officials in the opening weekend. Many of the complaints stemmed from judgment calls (such as the failure of officials to flag Patriots CB Devin McCourty for pass interference in the end zone of a 34-13 win) or non-game-changing mistakes (such as officials’ failure to restart the play clock after a penalty that forced Bears QB Jay Cutler to burn a timeout in a 41-21 win over the Colts). But the din of discontent about those mistakes would grow much louder in the ensuing weeks.
- The NFL removed official Brian Stropolo hours before he was set to work the Week 2 Saints-Panthers game in Carolina. Photos had emerged of Stropolo on Facebook wearing Saints gear.
- Officials mistakenly ruled an incomplete pass by Eagles QB Michael Vick a fumble that was recovered by Baltimore at its own 1-yard line. The referee was standing right behind Vick when he made the fumble call. Upon video review, he reversed the call to an incomplete pass, and Vick scored the game-winning touchdown on the next play. But it was one of several questionable calls during the game that led Ravens QB Joe Flacco to suggest after the game that the replacement officials were beginning to affect the integrity of the game.
- Officials failed to correct an apparent error during a challenge by Jets coach Rex Ryan during a 27-10 Week 2 loss in Pittsburgh. Ryan challenged an Isaac Redman run because he believed defender Yeremiah Bell had forced a fumble. No fumble was detected, but replay showed Redman was down in the backfield -- instead of having run for 6 yards. Even though that wasn’t Ryan’s specific complaint in the challenge, every aspect of a play is correctable once a review is begun. Officials did not address Redman’s field position in the review, however.
- Officials mistakenly awarded a second-quarter challenge to Rams coach Jeff Fisher in a 31-28 Week 2 win over the Redskins. The NFL implemented automatic review of all turnovers this season, and coaches are banned from challenging the plays. Throwing a flag for such a challenge should result in a 15-yard penalty for a coach. But officials overturned the call after Fisher’s review request, and the Rams kicked a field goal (which equalled their eventual margin of victory).
- Officials failed to stop the clock after a second-quarter Cincinnati incomplete pass in its Week 2 34-27 win over Cleveland. Twenty-nine seconds elapsed from the clock that should not have. The Browns ended the half stuck on their own 29-yard line, and might have been able to use the missing 29 seconds. Said Browns LB Scott Fujita, a member of the NFL Players Association executive council, on Twitter: “Not knowing all the rules and major procedural errors (like allowing the clock to run after an incomplete pass) [is] completely unacceptable. Enough already.”
- Broncos head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio allowed their frustration with officials to boil over in a 27-21 loss at Atlanta in Week 2. Their treatment of officials earned them fines of $30,000 and $25,000, respectively.
- The NFL backed the performance of the replacement officials after Week 2. “Officiating is never perfect. The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said. “As we do every season, we will work to improve officiating and are confident that the game officials will show continued improvement.”
- Aggressive play seems to have spiked with unfamiliar officials perhaps unable to corral players. Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall said after the Week 2 loss to the Redskins that he had “never been a part of a game that was that chippy.” It was a familiar theme repeated by many players around the league.
- Before Week 3, the NFLPA, citing concerns about player safety, formally asked the league to end the officials lockout. “Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity,” the NFLPA told the league.
- Also before Week 3, the NFL sent a memo to teams instructing them to maintain appropriate respect for on-field officials.
- An official in the Cowboys’ 16-10 win over the Buccaneers threw a hat that appeared to disrupt the progress of Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree. Officials throw a hat when a receiver steps out of bound during a play, though video did not indicate that Ogletree stepped out of bounds. Cowboys QB Tony Romo targeted Ogletree with a throw into the corner of the end zone, but the receiver had lost his footing -- seemingly from stepping on the hat in the end zone.
- Referee Ken Roan admitted erring by allowing San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh to challenge a play immediately after he called his final timeout. Rules require a team to have a timeout left before challenging, because a failed challenge would cost a timeout. Roan then repeated the mistake several minutes later when, after restoring the 49ers’ timeout following a successful challenge, he allowed Harbaugh to challenge after he again called a timeout.
- Officials in the Lions’ 44-41 loss to Tennessee mistakenly awarded a 27-yard penalty to the Titans for a helmet-to-helmet hit by the Lions’ Stephen Tulloch. He was flagged for the illegal hit on a reception that was overturned on review because the ball hit the ground. Officials didn’t replace the ball at the original line of scrimmage, and what should have been a 15-yard penalty became 27. The Titans kicked the go-ahead field goal on the drive.
- Officials in the Redskins’ 38-31 loss to the Bengals walked off 25 yards penalties in the closing seconds of the game when they should have only imposed 20 yards. After Robert Griffin III spiked the ball with 7 seconds left, Fred Davis was called for a false start 5-yard penalty. Washington coach Mike Shanahan said that at least one official indicated a 10-second runoff on the play would end the game, so some Bengals players were walking onto the field thinking the game ended. But since Griffin spiked the ball, no runoff applied. Officials flagged the Redskins for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which increased the total penalty yardage to 20. But officials walked off 25 yards, which left the Redskins facing a third-and-50 in the final 7 seconds.
- Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes was unhappy with the performance of officials in New England’s 31-30 loss in Baltimore in which 24 penalties were accepted. He tweeted after the game: “Can someone please tell these (expletive) zebras foot locker called and they’re needed Back at work !!!! #BreakingPoint.”
- In the same game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick appeared to make contact with an official after the Ravens kicked a final-second winning field goal. Belichick said he was trying to get an explanation of whether the kick, which passed close by the upright, would be reviewed.
- The Seahawks emerged with a shocking 14-12 Monday night win over the Packers after officials ruled Golden Tate emerged from a scrum with a gaggle of Green Bay defenders with possession of a final-second TD catch. Video seemed to show that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings had possession of the ball for a game-sealing interception, and one official at the play seemed to indicate an interception. But another official ruled touchdown, apparently concluding that Tate, who reached around Jennings to get ahold of the ball, had joint possession. After review, officials confirmed the on-field call of a touchdown. “It was awful,” Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said of the call.
- Browns kicker Phil Dawson was unvarnished in his assessment of the performance of the replacement officials after Week 3.”Unfortunately, I feel like that it’s like changing an intersection from a stop sign to a red light,” Dawson said. “You have to have so many car wrecks before they deem that intersection to be dangerous enough -- and we’re heading that way. Someone’s going to lose a game, if it hasn’t already happened, to get both sides to a pressure point to get a deal done. It’s sad.”
- Less than 24 hours before the Week 4 slate of games was set to kick off on Thursday night, the NFL reached a deal with the regular officials on a new collective bargaining agreement. The eight-year deal allowed for officials to return to the field immediately. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to fans for putting them through the “pain” of the lockout.