False Starts, and Not Just for Teams
Let's just say the state's
football fans have had better weekends. First the Badgers flopped at Oregon
State, 10-7, going scoreless for the first 58-plus minutes. Then the Packers
opened their season with a frustrating 30-22 loss to San Francisco, showing
some of the same flaws that ruined them in January.
But when the Observers conferred within minutes of the last play at Lambeau, it was another group's poor performance that became the first topic.
Artie: Holy cow, could they make these games any longer?
Frank: They already drag on and on, thanks to TV breaks and play reviews. But some of the NFL openers were way worse than usual because of the replacement officials.
Artie: Boy, are they terrible!
Frank: If I were a regular NFL official watching these games, I'd be grinning and thinking, “No way the league can keep me locked out another week.”
Artie: It's not just that the subs were making bad calls, although that was pretty obvious from the Packer game. But it was all the conferences after plays, like they weren't sure what was going on. It seems like they're all afraid of making the wrong call and getting harassed by coaches—which they usually are anyway.
Frank: The result is more delays in the action—what little action there really is in 60 NFL minutes. I could see in the score updates on the noon games that they were taking longer than the 3 hours 15 minutes that TV schedules.
Artie: The Saints-Redskins game that preceded the Packers wasn't anywhere near finishing when they kicked off at Lambeau at 3:25.
Frank: The Packer game didn't end until 10 minutes to 7. And the Seahawks-Cardinals game took until 7, partly because the officiating crew needed five minutes of consultation to determine whether Seattle had called a timeout it didn't have left.
Artie: It's really hard for me to judge how the Packers played because there were so many calls, and non-calls, that didn't make sense. In the second quarter on a pass to James Jones at the goal line, the 49ers defender was totally pulling his jersey, but there was no flag. But later Charles Woodson was called for pulling on a jersey—and he was, but what the hell: It's only a penalty half the time?
Frank: The craziest thing was the fourth-quarter punt return for a touchdown by Randall Cobb. There was a flag, apparently for a block in the back, but it got picked up. But then a replay showed an obvious block in the back that no one seemed to see.
Artie: It was just incompetence all day long, ain’a?
Frank: But the real incompetence is the NFL's for putting these officials—who haven't even worked Division I college games—on the field. I wouldn't be surprised if the players are taking advantage of their inexperience, seeing how far they can push the envelope.
Artie: It's ridiculous that this league, which has billions of dollars in revenue, can't kick in a few more bucks to have the best officials working.
Frank: Troy Aikman noted during the Packer game that many of the flags were coming in real late. That just makes it look worse. I'm sure the pro game is so much faster than what they're used to in Division II or III in college.
Artie: Hell, one of the replacements—and a referee yet, wearing the white hat—worked in the Lingerie Football League, which is just what you'd think it is—women playing in underwear.
Frank: That is one Craig Ochoa, who was not the referee at Lambeau.
Artie: But who knows, maybe someone else on that crew had Lingerie League experience. Maybe he got confused and thought he was supposed to be watching the cheerleaders.
Frank: Although the Packer cheerleaders surely are clad more demurely than the lingerie players.
Artie: But maybe that threw him off and he was throwing flags for the wrong reasons. “Hey, that's not a thong! Five yards, still second down.” Whatever was going on, it was embarrassing.
Frank: Let's just hope Roger Goodell was embarrassed for his league. You'd think the commissioner would be concerned for the alleged integrity of his game. And there's a safety issue too; with all the concern about head injuries, shouldn't they have the most experienced officials there to enforce the league's protections?
Artie: I'm not saying that if the regular refs were there, the Packers would have won. But the game just wasn't conducted well. And it just took so long!
Frank: Not that the NFL cares about how long the poor folks in the stands have to hang around. But the delays must be annoying the important folks—the TV audiences that dictate ad rates and the networks that pay the bills and really run the show. At this rate, no one will ever see “60 Minutes” within an hour of its scheduled time when CBS has the double-header game.
Artie: Sixty minutes is about what the constant confabs added up to.
Frank: Let's move on to the Packers' performance. Your judgment?
Artie: Like I said, it's tough because of the inconsistent refs and the fact that they played a really solid team in the 49ers.
Frank: So you're not proclaiming your usual post-loss “Fire Them All!”
Artie: Only as it applies to the replacement refs.
Frank: Green Bay's defense sure didn't look improved from last season. They gave up almost 200 rushing yards, 20-for-26 passing by Alex Smith and got no turnovers. On offense the Packers had virtually no running game and there were just enough mistakes—Aaron Rodgers' costly interception, another dropped third-down pass by Jermichael Finley—to mess up the day.
Artie: This was not a good weekend for new offensive coordinators—Tom Clements of the Packers and Matt Canada of Wisconsin.
Frank: The Badgers sure had a clinker. The official rushing stat of 35 yards was misleading...
Artie: It included the minus yards from Danny O'Brien's sacks.
Frank: But if you don't count the sacks, Montee Ball and Co. only ran for 72.
Artie: That was just shocking. After the five-point win over Northern Iowa, it didn't make for an encouraging two weeks. The Badgers have six new people as coordinators or position coaches, and I guess it shows.
Frank: Bret Bielema's frustration certainly showed. The Journal Sentinel disclosed that one of those six new guys, offensive line coach Mike Markuson, was dismissed Sunday and Bart Miller took his place. Miller was the offensive quality control coordinator, whatever that means.
Artie: There better be some quality Saturday against Utah State!
Brewing Some Optimism
Frank: The Brewers' 10-inning loss in St. Louis was pretty damaging. It meant that even a 15-5 run over three weeks didn't get them back to .500.
Artie: But taking two of three from the Cardinals was impressive, especially since Yovani Gallardo snapped his streak of bad outings against them.
Frank: A sweep would have put them only four games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card spot with 22 games to play. Instead they fell six games back, with some tough opponents remaining.
Artie: Probably too much ground to make up with only three weeks left. But if they can finish at .500 or better, considering all the injuries and crazy bullpen collapses that have happened, I'd call it a successful season.
Frank: I wouldn't say “successful,” considering what they seemed capable of in April. But the season would be “salvaged” in the sense of having something to build on, especially with lots of young players getting experience.