This summer the NFL has opened the preseason in a labor dispute with officials, and are instead using college officials from no BCS conferences are replacements until the dispute is involved.

What issues have been seen this preseason and what issues should we look forward to. What steps if any has the NFL taken to mitigate the influence of inexperienced referees on game outcomes?

  • 1
    Funny we revisit this six weeks later with a different mindset...
    – user527
    Oct 4, 2012 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


There are several anecdotal issues we've observed thus far, most notably the 4th timeout given to the Seattle Seahawks.

The thing to remember is any referee can make mistakes, and the right call is often not clear and dependent on your perspective. If you could count the number of errant calls, you could perform analysis as to how these refs are performing relative to their ordinary counterparts. As far as I'm aware, no one has undertaken that task.

As for mitigating the influence of the replacements, they are still the referees. The NFL has trained them, and standard tools and procedures like instant replay, challenges, booth reviews are still in place. The replacements have the same mitigation of any ordinary referee.

Most importantly, I would say a team's performance has a greater impact on their odds of winning than all but the most egregious officiating mistakes. The situation is what it is, and every single team has to make the best of it.


The replacement refs have, actually, made some atrocious calls throughout this preseason. They have missed an innumerable amount of holding penalties, countless pass-interference calls, and they have even declared a punt a touchback even though it landed on the four yard line...

Although back to your question on the impact the have had. Despite their obvious lack of NFL experience, the answer to your question, surprisingly, is no impact whatsoever. The replacements will make poorly judged calls, and they will incorrectly throw a flag in certain situations. The thing is, they will be doing this for every team in every single game. How could they possibly give one team an advantage over another in a single game if they make the same horrible calls for both teams?

  • Do you have documentation for the second sentence or is that just observation/opinion?
    – wax eagle
    Aug 30, 2012 at 15:18
  • It is known throughout the league that the replacement refs are making bad calls compared to last preseason when normal NFL refs were employed. It is a fact by saying that there is an impact based on horrible calls. It is an opinion saying that there is no impact since each team receives these horrible calls.
    – Zack
    Aug 30, 2012 at 15:25
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    Now that we're into the regular season, I think it's fair to point out that despite an equal amount of bad calls, Green Bay ended up with an extra touchdown on a botched Block in the Back penalty. Even if they are consistent in poor calls, some of them will have larger impacts on the game as a whole. A missed pass-interference call during a 1 and 10 at your own 20 yard line is much less frustrating than one at 3 and goal.
    – SocioMatt
    Sep 12, 2012 at 14:42

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