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November 08, 2016

Hey, NFL: Want to know why your TV ratings are down? Your officiating is a joke!

There is little doubt that any NFL team would take Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman, his talent and his attitude. However, there was no excuse for his play at the end of the first half on Monday night when he ran into Buffalo Bills kicker Dan Carpenter.

But the real disgrace was not Sherman’s play, but the officiating that surrounded the play.

With Carpenter lining up for a 53-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the first half, Sherman jumped offside and – while whistles were blowing and everyone else had stopped – plowed into the kicker. Seattle was penalized five yards for the offside infraction, but nothing for the obvious unnecessary roughness.

Making matters worse, the officials said that since the trainers had to come onto the field to attend to Carpenter, he was forced to sit out one play.

The Bills then spiked the ball with one second left and hurried their field goal unit back onto the field. But the refs were extremely slow to spot the ball and the clock ran down.

Buffalo snapped the ball and Carpenter made the kick, but the play was blown dead because of the delay penalty.

After the five-yard penalty was assessed, Carpenter missed the 54-yard field goal as time ran out.

The officials couldn’t have looked worse if they actually tried. The whole mess looked more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a Monday Night Football game.

The NFL now has an issue with its officiating that rivals the stink that was raised when the league used replacement officials a few years back.

For many fans the highlight of the season occurred on Sunday when Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was essentially tackled around the neck in the end zone while attempting to catch a pass.

Kelce asked for a flag on the play, and eventually got one – for protesting too much. Kelce then pulled out his own flag – a towel he had in his back pocket – and threw it at the referee … who wasn’t amused and tossed Kelce out of the game.

The cold truth of these situations is that these are not rare occurrences. Week after week, game after game, the NFL has to issue apologies because of the incompetence of its officials.

Just this past Sunday, the Eagles were the victims of two horrendous non-calls when both kicker Caleb Sturgis and quarterback Carson Wentz were blasted on what should have been illegal contact calls. The only reason more wasn’t made of the plays is that Eagles fans were so upset with the play-calling of coach Doug Pederson they couldn’t bellyache about the horrible non-calls.

It has come to the point that fans of the NFL are actually voting with their eyes about the integrity of the officiating. Fans are literally tuning out and TV ratings have plummeted this season.

All the while, the game is being stopped for replay after replay while officiating crews huddle up to decide how they are going to rule. Much like on that commercial, the officials’ huddles are beginning to look more like discussions on how to cover up their mistakes. And they usually end with a convoluted announcement that explains nothing.

The incompetence has reached a point that even the network broadcasters are regularly questioning the calls. Mind you, the announcers have a vested interest in making the game and the officials look good.

The sorry truth of the matter is that the refs’ ineptitude is so blatant that the announcers would look like fools if they didn’t call out the officials. On Sunday, Troy Aikman even suggested that no penalty was called when Wentz was hit late above the shoulders because Wentz was rookie.

And then you could actually envision him shaking his head when he followed that up by saying a penalty should be a penalty, no matter the status of a player.

The time is long past due that the NFL hires full-time officials. It is ludicrous that a league as powerful and rich as the NFL still employs a system in which its officials are part-time employees.

The NFL should be grooming much younger officials who can actually keep up with the speed of the game. The NFL needs officials with more skin in the game and officials who have no other professional responsibilities other than calling games and studying games on tape the rest of the week.

The league, especially Roger Goodell cannot hide his head the sand about this issue. This needs to be addressed, starting with NFL Vice President of Officiating/Chief Apologist Dean Blandino, who must be removed from his position.

On a year-to-year basis, coaches and players lose their jobs over what is essentially perceived incompetence, yet Blandino, despite tangible evidence, keeps his.

There is a long tradition in sports to blame officials for losses. The howl of “You’re blind, ump!” or much worse, has sounded in America through generations, but there was never the video proof of the brutal mistakes that we have today.

Enough is enough.

Travis Kelce was right to throw a flag on the NFL officials – it’s time they were called out for their blatant incompetence.