Roger Goodell should be calling himself into his office for the mishandling of the referee situation.
If the kind of behavior exhibited within the confines of NFL stadiums since the season began was happening elsewhere, it already would've incurred the wrath of the discipline-minded commissioner.
Instead, the longer the replacement referees call the action, the closer the game gets to descending into complete anarchy.
The wealth of inconveniences are minor and to be expected when the NFL decided to go ahead with replacement crews. Replay overturns and extra discussions among officials, even if they're lengthy, are appropriate for accuracy's sake. Of course, when one quarter takes an hour, as the opening period did between Atlanta and Denver on Monday night, it also makes for a perfect sound-bite complaint.
Incorrect timekeeping, bad ball spots and miscounted penalty yardage are a little more embarrassing, evidence of the simple mistakes that can be made when officials aren't accustomed to the pressure and spotlight of an NFL environment.
Conflicts of interest are another step further, revealing haste and oversight at an organizational level. The NFL pulled side judge Brian Stropolo from the New Orleans-Carolina game because Stropolo had pictures in Saints gear and tailgating at a Saints preseason game -- after he was hired by the league.
Take it from the NBA, that's not just the appearance of impropriety. Perception is reality.
But Goodell's biggest problem is one of integrity -- his own as well as that of the game he administers. Intimidation, needless aggression and cheap shots before and after the whistle are the kinds of things he's trying to stop. But chippy play has been rampant in the first two weeks of the season. Without respect for officials, it will only get worse.
If Goodell doesn't stand for it from his players off the field, he needs to take control to stamp it out between the lines.
The best way to make that happen is to settle with regular referees and put them back in charge.
- Craig Stouffer