While the 49ers' embarrassing performance Thursday is getting national media attention, something else more important hasn't really been discussed at all: the officiating.
Let's get one thing straight: The 49ers were losing that game. Bad calls or not, they were awful. However, the game continued the downward spiral of the NFL's officiating, or lack thereof in recent weeks. Between players being certain ages to get certain calls or rules being blatantly ignored, the referees have hit an all-time low. You can argue that some things are misunderstandings, but when everything is happening from all angles, it's hard to really think that any of these are isolated incidents. It's no longer ticky-tack calls or calls that could go either way, it's ignoring calls altogether. Calls that are right in front of your face. Flags that have no argument to not be thrown are not even getting reached for.
It again gives a perception that (yet again) the NFL really doesn't give a crap. Even with that increasing perception, the NFL does nothing. For starters, I don't want to hear anything from the league again about how the game is much safer, that image is just a mirage. To be honest, I thought it was nothing more than PR from the start, since the only time we hear about that is when it's in front of a camera. And guess what? I was right. Roll it:
Meanwhile, Quinton Patton gets slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play. If the NFL truly was concerned about safety and making the game better like they claim to be, someone should have gotten fired on that blunder. Ignorance on the job means consequences, especially when a company is rolling out an initiative. But, for some reason, the worse thing that happens to the officials is 'downgraded' or an apology letter. Whatever.
Forget the safety mirage for a second--this kind of stuff is happening. A lot. Not calls that can go either way, not calls that are caught in the chaos of a play (holding, pass interference); these are blatant, obvious, must-throw flags that are being neglected. Usually you saw this happen maybe once every couple months. One obvious call that's ignored. Infuriating, but it happens.
Now I'm seeing it every week. On prime time. Anyone want a reminder?
I don't need to bring up the stupid false start/encroachment penalties that were clearly ignored during the 49ers-Packers game. The point is, this is happening way more often than usual, it's disturbing. Obvious, must-flag plays are happening under the refs' noses with little explanation as to why they aren't doing their jobs, especially when the league has to back up claims due to lawsuits. It tells me either they are too incompetent to be officiating games at this level, they are in on something with the league, or both. It reminds me of the replacement refs.
None of this would really bother me if it wasn't for the fact the league wants to shove their superiority down our throats day in and day out. Or that they blast these false claims of empathy and making the game better (no, they really aren't). It also wouldn't bother me if I didn't see lower levels of sports, like the FBS, doing the entire thing much better. It's actually sad that NCAA officiating is light years better than the NFL's. When you see how much better (in my opinion) that is and then look at the NFL, the product is unacceptable. College football, a whole level lower than the highest 'standard' of the game has little controversy on its fields. Yes, there are a few missed calls here or there that hit headlines, but it's not week in, week out, like I see with this. And it certainly isn't calls that can be taken either way. It's simple day-to-day officiating that the NFL has grown lazy with and they look like a joke as a result.
And the thing is, despite all the claims to the contrary every season about how the officiating is better, it's anything but. The NFL can flash how they have calls to New York to improve things in replay, how they will add cameras at a certain angles, but that isn't stopping all these blatant ignored calls growing more obnoxious as these 'improvements' come to place. They can't even review who starts a fight and throw the wrong guy out of the game, even the NBA can get THAT right. Given what I've seen this season, it seems like if the NFL does stay around, it's going to be more and more like the NBA, something that does get legions of fans, but in the back of our minds we just can't take the whole thing seriously. I don't know why the NFL cannot hold their officiating crews accountable, especially when hits like the one on Reggie Bush the other night completely contradict what they've been 'trying' to do for the last decade.
Not that it matters, I still watch on Sundays anyways so I'm not really doing anything about it. Which is pretty much why they won't do anything. It's safe to assume the NFL doesn't give a crap about making the best product they can, but just how much money they can lynch from fans and make attempts to have a squeaky clean image.
But I watch it knowing the league I once loved is now at best, sports entertainment and at worse, a joke. The whole idea of competition isn't near as important as it once was in the NFL, and it's the way their games are structured and piss-poor smokescreens that do nothing more than just hold off lawsuits. The NFL isn't an art form, but maybe it can retain it's money and get some respect back by not churning out a joke of a product and taking the time to make the very thing they will make money with, something they can be proud of as well.
What do you guys think? How do we bring back integrity to the officiating crew? Just start firing people and suspending refs who screw up? Revamp replay? This needs to be fixed, but the question is: How?