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...
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?