The replacement refs are gone now, but don’t put them in history’s dustbin just yet: as the world at large still celebrates the regulars’ return, more of an effort is being made to present the refs as sympathetic figures. (Much easier to do that, of course, when they’re out of the picture and not being accused of screwing up America’s favorite sport.) There was this ESPN story that aimed to “give [the] replacement referees a proper sendoff,” and last night, two replacement officials visited Showtime’s Inside the NFL to give us a better idea of what being in their shoes was like for those three weeks.
And better yet, one of the replacement officials who appeared on the show, Wayne Elliott, was also one of the officials working… that game. You know the one. Naturally, he got asked about the fateful call at the end – one he’d defended previously, though he didn’t see the play as it happened live because he wasn’t in the end zone. It seems, though, that after further further review, Elliott would have done things differently if he’d been the one making the call. He’s put on the spot at the 7:55 mark:
And with that, Elliott joined the ranks of “everyone else except fellow referee Lance Easley.” Elliott and Jim Core, the referee who joined him on Inside the NFL last night, shared some other interesting tidbits, such as the very Jay Cutlerish way Jay Cutler got Elliott’s attention, Core’s difficulties in dealing with Greg Schiano… and that the refs were trained not to call pass interference on Hail Mary plays, much to Cris Collinsworth’s horror. In fact, that raised enough eyebrows that NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded thusly:
“Officials have long been instructed not to call pass interference on ‘Hail Mary,’ jump ball plays (at end of halves or end of game) unless it is blatant as it was in the Seattle-Green Bay game. Offensive pass interference should have been called on that play. It was more than incidental bumping and jostling.”
Needless to say, if the NFL were urging officials not to call pass interference in jump ball situations at all when they came out and criticized the lack of an OPI call against Golden Tate, the league wouldn’t have come out looking too good. Who will come out looking great: Mike McCarthy, for calling Elliott after the Monday Night fiasco and offering his support (if not agreement with he call). And despite the push over the last couple days to humanize the replacements, we can’t feel too bad for them: Elliot and Core both said they’d do it again if they could. Even when you’re taking endless abuse, reffing NFL games is a pretty sweet deal.