Are the Replacement Referees Ruining the NFL?

This fall's football season has been marred by questionable calls in several games, leading to team and fan outrage.

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Replacement referees in the NFL continue to cause controversy over disputed calls on the field this football season. The latest incident took place Monday night during a Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game, with some saying an incorrect call cost Green Bay the game.

The disputed play came with eight seconds remaining in the game, when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw the ball to Golden Tate in the end zone. Tate pushed Packer Sam Shields out of his way and then there was a scuffle over the ball between Tate and M.D. Jennings. The replacement referees simultaneously ruled the play a touchdown for the Seahawks and an interception for Green Bay.

Both players say they had possession of the ball, in which case a tie rules in favor of the offense. After a review of the play, the Seahawks were awarded a touchdown and a victory in the game, while Packer fans were openly expressing dismay at the call. They say it was obvious Tate never had control of the ball.

[See Photos of the 2012 NFL Kickoff.]

"Don't ask me a question about the officials," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "I've never seen anything like that in all my years in football."

The episode Monday night is the latest in a series of questionable calls by the replacement refs, who are standing in for the regular NFL officials due to a referee lockout over salary and benefit disputes. The NFL has repeatedly claimed that the replacement officials are able to properly do the job, but the Packers aren't the only team that would beg to differ.

[See Photos of the NHL Lockout: Hockey Season in Danger as Negotiations Fail.]

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick briefly grabbed one of the referees following his team's loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. He said he was attempting to get the official's attention so he could get an explanation of his call which led to a Ravens field goal and Patriots loss. Denver Broncos Coach John Fox and the team's defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, have been fined by the NFL for publicly criticizing the officials during the team's September 17 game. Following these incidents, the NFL issued a warning to coaches, owners, and general managers about their behavior during the upcoming weekend games:

"We contacted them to remind them that everyone has a responsibility to respect the game," NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson said. "We expect it to be adhered to this weekend and forevermore."

[See Photos as College Football Kicks Off.]

U.S. News's Susan Milligan said bad calls in multiple games have understandably led to anger from coaches, players, and fans:

The so-called "replacement" refs are awful. They're worse than awful, actually. They are losing control of the game and undermining whatever integrity exists in a show like a professional football game.

Yes, the real refs are paid well, arguably overpaid. But no one's more overcompensated than the owners. Make a deal and bring back real football. At least then we can start blaming the coaches again.

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