NFL replacement referees may be gone, but the headaches they’re causing for league officials are going to stay for at least a little longer.
After an embarrassing debacle on Monday Night Football in which the refs blew a call on a Hail Mary that the Seattle Seahawks completed to win the game, league officials came under a torrent of criticism. But now two of the NFL replacement refs have added to the league’s pain after they appeared on Showtime’s Inside the NFL and said that they were told not to call pass interference on Hail Marys.
Of course, there was pass interference on the Hail Mary that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed to Golden Tate, with Tate pushing off so obviously that the Green Bay Packers defender actually fell to the ground.
On top of that, one NFL replacement ref ruled that Tate had a simultaneous catch with defender M.D. Jennings though it was clear that Jennings had possession by himself. In a comical scene that would come to epitomize the incompetence of NFL replacement refs, as the one signaled a touchdown the other official signaled interception.
As CBS Sports reported, the newest revelation that NFL replacement refs were told not to call pass interference makes the situation look even worse.
“(For) the deep officials, it was brought up that you don’t really call interference on a Hail Mary…,” said Wayne Elliott, who was the head referee during Packers-Seahawks game. “The deep officials were trained that during a Hail Mary, there’s a lot of bodies in there and you just let it go.”
His admission took host Chris Collinsworth by surprise, causing him to blurt out, “Whoa! Really?”
Another NFL replacement ref, Jim Core, backed up Elliot’s assertion, noting that in the college ranks the philosophy is that “for the most part you let the players decide.”
Amazingly, NFL representative Greg Aiello agreed — to a point.
“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,” he said. “Offensive pass interference should have been called on that play. It was more than incidental bumping and jostling.”
Elliott said his phone ran constantly for 72 hours after the Monday night call. One of those was from Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.
“He had heard I was having a rough week with all the calls and everything… He wanted me to know he thought that what I did, controversial and maybe he didn’t agree with it, that I handled it with class,” said Elliott, adding that most of the rest of the calls were that “I should go off somewhere and die or I should commit suicide.”
The Monday Night Football incident was enough to squash the impasse between referees and league officials and send NFL replacement refs packing. Sports Illustrated reported that the NFL Referees Association approved an eight-year contract with an overwhelming 112-5 vote.