Hold your officiating gripes until they matter

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As the NFL officials continue to be locked out by the league in a contract dispute, there is a growing sense of consternation among fans, analysts, and — most importantly — coaches and players about the quality of the replacement officials.

In Sunday’s NFL preseason opener, the newly hired replacement officials made a number of documented errors including such glaring problems as having difficulty spotting the ball properly, failure to call illegal motion and hands to the face, no offensive holding calls — one of which would have resulted in a safety — and failure to dock a timeout for an injury within the final two minutes of the half.

As Mike Freeman of CBS Sports reports, Saints and Cardinals players — who took part in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday — mocked the replacement officials, whom they called “clueless.”

My take on the matter is this: Shut up, do your job, and let your play take care of how the game is won or lost.

Just how many of those errors made on Sunday cost the Cardinals a chance at winning the game, or of beating a far superior Saints team from top to bottom? Furthermore, for what reason do blown calls in a preseason game matter?

There’s no reason to gripe about poor officiating in the first week of August. We have a month to go before the regular season begins and a deal still might be struck with the regular officials before that time.

But even if the replacement officials had to start the season, are the fate of the games completely in their hands?

No. In fact … hell no.

More often than not, games are won by the better team, and they’re won comfortably. And during games in which the outcomes are decided by last-second field goals, touchdowns, or defensive stops, it’s usually the players who either make — or fail to make — the deciding play. Rarely ever are games decided by the officials.

Having played the game for 10 years, I can assure you that a mistake made by an official at any point in the game — prior to the fourth quarter — has no bearing on its outcome. Do you know what does determine the outcome?

The next play after the blown call.

And then the next play after that one.

And so on and so forth…

Until the replacement officials actually blow a meaningful call in a critical situation in a regular season game, it’s pointless to gripe about them.

The better team — the one that makes the most plays and executes its game plan better — should be, and will be, the victor regardless of how the game is officiated.

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