NFL Fires Official Midseason For The First Time In Super Bowl Era

football official
Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Are you ready for some football? If so, then you are one step ahead of former down judge Hugo Cruz. That’s because he has been ejected from the game permanently.

Cruz’s infraction was making a bad call at a critical point in the game. Sports fans everywhere are collectively shouting, “seriously? Since when does the NFL end the career of an official for making a bad call at a critical point in the game?” Apparently, not since the Super Bowl era for the National Football League. That’s when.

Don’t think the guys in the zebra shirts are taking this lying down, or grazing, or whatever zebras do. ESPN is helping them get the word out.

“The NFL has a troubling history of knee-jerk reactions with an eye on public relations, and clearly it has not learned from past mistakes,” said Scott Green, executive director of the NFL Referees Association.

“The NFLRA will protect the collectively bargained rights of all officials and will challenge this reckless decision through the grievance process.”

Indeed, refs everywhere are throwing the challenge flag. Since time immemorial, bad calls have been a part of the game. It happens. It is not malicious. It is a part of the human factor. Sometimes, a game is on the line because the play was called a fourth down instead of a first down. Coaches have been telling players for a very long time that you should never let the game get close enough to be in the hands of officials.

Coach arguing with official
  Joe Sargent

From the official’s perspective, we have humans calling the plays, not robots. Those humans cannot be put in a position to second-guess themselves with every call. We have been seeing a lot more of this in football. Officials are quick to call a targeting penalty and then sort it out with instant replay. What’s next? Calling every close yardage situation a first down and letting coaches challenge it?

Traditionally, officials are judged and fired at the end of the year. They can be called to the carpet on bad decisions, and there are ways poor performance is dealt with. But firing officials in the middle of a season has been off-limits for good reasons. If you have officials too afraid to use their judgment and make calls as they see them, then you don’t really have officials anymore. And no matter how sports fans like to boo a bad call, we know we have no game without officials.

The NFL needs to send this call back for further review. If allowed to stand, it will send shockwaves through every sport. All officials are on the edge of their seats to see how this one turns out.