Are Replacement Officials Detracting From Your Viewing Experience?

Are Replacement Officials Detracting From Your Viewing Experience?

As Enrico mentioned earlier, the referees for Monday night's contest between the Falcons and Broncos took a beating from the ESPN broadcast team, and they certainly weren't the first crew to lay waste to replacement officials. I didn't notice the NFL's own network had silenced their booth on the matter either, and even college football announcers have been taking shots. Heck, just listen to the soundbites or read the comments by players and coaches all over the league.

There have been massive blunders, and lately officials are losing control on the field, the scheduled action giving way to an increasing number of shoving matches after the whistle. Yet as bad a job as the replacements are doing, that's not even what I think is making many of these games borderline unwatchable so far. Actually, the staggering level of incompetence is almost humorous -- admittedly only until it comes back to bite the home team.

The true problem is the heavy amount of procedure involved with officiating football seems completely lost on the folks in the striped shirts, and many of these games are taking for-e-ver to play out. Practically every tilt feels like it's marred by delays as officials hold long conferences on the field, debating what the yellow flag was for and against whom, wildly guessing at where the ball is supposed to be spotted, and struggling to figure out when the clock is or isn't supposed to be running, followed by more conferencing with a pseudo-official on the sidelines, then a brawl breaks out because everybody is trying to turn this spectacle into a competitive advantage...

It's awful.

So far, both 1 o'clock Eagles games have run deep into the first quarter of the afternoon slate, several of which were actually pushed back 10 minutes to 4:25 for the first time this season. A big part of the problem against the Browns was there were so many clock stoppages from incomplete passes, numerous penalties, and other, but why did it happen again in Week 2? Brawls and official gaffes. I mean, the first half had two two-minute warnings!

Most fans will probably watch the Eagles no matter what, but what about the rest of the sideshow? It's a miracle the Monday night game didn't last four hours, as it was on pace to do so at the end of the first half -- I suppose we can thank both teams for running the ball quite a bit more in the second half (they must've been checking their watches, too). Add in the fact that it's 8:40 p.m. until they finally kick off, and it's a mess. Who wants to sit for that long and watch anything, let alone two teams they don't care about, and so late into the night for that matter?

It's not just a question of whether the officiating is detracting from your viewing experience as is posed above (it is), but will you continue tuning in to these other games at this rate? NFL ratings continue to soar, but because people genuinely enjoy watching the product. There was little enjoyment to be had watching on Monday night, which for the viewer at home with little or no stake in the outcome boiled down to a time-consuming exercise in tedium.

The reality that's being pushed by some in the media is the NFL doesn't care what the players and coaches think, and they don't care much more what you think, either. However, if ratings start to experience some measure of decline, the league might start to reconsider they lockout with the regular officials right quick. I know I personally am not quite prepared to send that message, but are you?

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6 1/2 to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.