Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss whether there has been a marked difference in NFL officiating during the preseason, with replacement officials being used while the regular ones are locked out during a labor dispute.
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Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
The officiating is bad now, with some embarrassing gaffes, and it's only going to get worse. Remember, these exhibition games are glorified scrimmages with little at stake for teams. Wait until the games count and the speed increases.
The NFL is asking that the replacement officials show up to game sites 3 1/2 hours before kickoff -- an hour earlier than officials typically arrive -- so they can receive extra training from supervisors on such rudimentary aspects such as where to stand and how to conduct the coin toss. Some officials are wearing ear pieces that connect them to an eye in the sky -- another official watching from the press box -- to assist them in making calls.
The NFL has instructed teams and coaches not to criticize the replacements, again something that will be very hard to enforce when the games actually matter. The scrutiny, pressure and mistakes are only going to get worse if this labor crisis carries into the regular season.
Dan Pompei, Chicago Tribune
There is no question officiating has been a little off this preseason. How could it not be? The NFL has replaced the men who were the absolute best in the world at what they do, men with significant experience and knowledge, with officials who have experience only at the college, high school or Arena League levels.
What's more, these replacement officials are facing a learning curve. This is all new to them. They are going to make mistakes just like rookie players make mistakes. They will need to get accustomed to the speed of the game, the magnitude of the NFL and the quirks of different assignments. They should improve eventually. But even after all that, it's still likely very few of them will be as good as the men they replaced.