Technologically speaking, referees are the anti-virus software of the NFL.
Generally, the referee is front and center when an NFL game boots up with the coin toss. Then, if the software is functioning properly, he and his crew run quietly in the background and prevent the game from being corrupted by infection.
Suppose you are defensive back thinking of launching a pass interference worm. Zap! The NFL’s anti-virus software puts a stop to your plan and the ball is placed at the spot of your foul.
Imagine you are offensive linemen hell bent on opening a can of holding spam on the defensive tackle across from you. Think again. The NFL’s anti-virus software throws up a 10-yard fire wall that your team will have to overcome.
Of course, as everyone knows, the NFL has been operating this year without its regular anti-virus software as the result of an NFL lockout of its regular officials.
The absence of the NFL’s regular anti-virus software sees to have grown more conspicuous as more and more time has passed through the 2012 season without it.
“Not too strong at this point,” Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira tweeted during a week 1 game between Green Bay and San Francisco.
“You’re getting off the ball and getting punched in the face, literally—not by accident—just about every time,” Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams said after his week 1 meeting with New York Jets’ tackle Austin Howard, “and that’s a penalty, last time I checked, unless they changed it with the new CBA or something. Last time I checked, that’s a penalty.”
“Rams Skins was the worst officiated game I’ve called by far,” broadcaster Tim Ryan tweeted after St. Louis edged Washington in week 2.
Like a hockey goalie, even the NFL’s regular anti-virus software occasionally lets a corruption slip into the operating system that wreaks havoc.
In 2008, one of the NFL’s most recognizable referees, Ed Hochuli flat out cost the San Diego a game that nearly cost the Chargers a playoff berth. In the final minutes of what proved to be a game-winning drive, Denver quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled and San Diego recovered. But the Broncos retained possession because Hochuli had inadvertently blown the play dead.
What the late Steve Sabol called “the greatest play in Super Bowl history” arguably only occurred because referee Mike Carey was too slow with his whistle. On the play, Eli Manning escaped the clutch of two New England pass rushers, threw the ball to wide receiver David Tyree, who caught it by pressing the ball to his helmet as he tumbled to the ground.
Carey just watched and did not rule Manning “in the grasp” of the would-be-sackers, which would have ended the play.
“Half a second longer and I would’ve had to [call him in the grasp],” Carey said. “If I stayed in my original position, I would have whistled it. Fortunately, I was mobile enough to see that he wasn’t completely in the grasp. Yeah, I had a sense of ‘Oh boy, I hope I made the right call.’ And I think I did…. I’m glad I didn’t blow it dead. I’d make the same call again….
Former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy disagreed.
"It should’ve been a sack,” Dungy said a few years after the non-call.
Last year, Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy blatantly yanked Minnesota quarterback Joe Webb to the ground by the face mask with Minnesota at the 1-yard line and poised to score a game-winning touchdown.
But that corruption escaped the regular NFL’s regular anti-virus protection too.
Like your computer, the NFL does not need anti-virus protection to operate.
And that is the key.
No matter how poorly the replacement referees perform, they will never be part of the NFL’s operating system, which is comprised solely of plays designed by the coaches and made by the players.
Sure, an additional virus or two more may infect the NFL’s operating software than if the regular officials were in place.
But the operating software and the anti-virus software are two separate systems and, of the two, the operating software clearly and indisputably reigns supreme.
That’s why the QuantCoach loves technology and NFL football even when the NFL's current anti-virus software is being run by a bunch of amateur hack(er)s.