- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is going to make headlines across the country for ripping the replacement referees. The league shouldn't fine him for his comments. The NFL needs to listen to him.
"The NFL and everybody always talk about the integrity of the game. I think this is kind of along those lines," Flacco said after the Ravens' 24-23 loss at Philadelphia. "Not to say these guys are doing a bad job, but the fact that we don't have the normal guys out there is pretty crazy."
Flacco said he hates complaining because he doesn’t want to “sound like a baby." But Flacco's criticism of the replacement officials is warranted. In fact, I wish other players would follow suit. Flacco is only saying what most fans and reporters are thinking.
The replacement referees lost control of the Ravens-Eagles game early and often. There was shoving. There were fights. It was obvious that the players had no respect for any man with a whistle. It was hard for anyone to take the replacement refs seriously when they couldn't keep track of timeouts and had two two-minute warnings in the fourth quarter. The officials took forever to sort out calls, which is why the game lasted 3 hours, 38 minutes.
The most debated call was the offensive pass interference penalty on Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones on a touchdown catch that would've put Baltimore ahead, 27-17, with 5:29 remaining. If anything, it looked like defensive pass interference on Nnamdi Asomugha, who never turned to face the ball. It only made matters worse when the official didn't throw a flag. He mistakenly tossed out his blue beanie.
I'm not suggesting the referees cost the Ravens the game. Flacco's second-half flop (8 of 25 passing) and the Ravens' suspect play calling (throwing the ball on third and fourth downs when they needed one yard on the final drive) played just as big of a factor in Baltimore's first loss of the season.
But the replacement referees are impacting games in a very negative way. There were more embarrassing calls in the Steelers-Jets game (like Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor getting called for interference when he never touched Santonio Holmes). As Flacco said, this is affecting the integrity of the game. This situation isn't getting any better. It's only getting worse.