Jussel: Teams, fans deserve better from the NFL

Monday night’s fiasco at the end of the Seattle-Green Bay National Football League game might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The ball is up in the air on the Hail Mary pass from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, comes down in Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings’ hands, and he cradles it to his chest.

Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate, doing only what he can do in such a situation, has already pushed Packer defensive back Sam Shields out of the way in an effort to get to the ball. He then reaches around Jennings and grabs onto a piece of the ball as the pile goes to the ground.

Simultaneous possession, touchdown Seattle, is the ruling on the field.

Ten minutes later, after both teams have yelled, screamed, cheered, jeered and left the field, they are called back on for the extra point. The game finally ends, 14-12 Seattle. And with that call, more than $300 million changes hands in Las Vegas.

Seattle improves to 2-1, Green Bay drops to 1-2. And this result may prove, far down the road, important in playoff seeding and scheduling.

And, oh yes, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, once again doing his best imitation of God, decides he had better get involved in the negotiations between the officials union and the owners.

Aren’t you at least a month late, Roger?

This is garbage, this ongoing strike/lockout of qualified NFL officials.

It is putting a crappy product on the field (these replacement zebras have mostly been employed as officials at the high school, junior college or small college level) in front of live crowds of nearly 100,000 screaming fans alongside 100-plus large, emotional humans who are battling to stay healthy enough to play another day.

This inferior officiating, of which this is just the latest example, is not justified.

Let’s get out my magical simplistic pencil and a calculator.

According to several websites, including, no less, The Christian Science Monitor, 121 officials in the NFL referees union make about $18 million per year.

Let’s for our sake, say the league is paying approximately $1 million per week over the 16-week NFL regular season.

There are roughly 16 games per week (excluding byes), meaning each site is paying about $62,000 per game for officials. It means, again, simply put, each fan who buys a ticket to the game is paying roughly $1 for officiating — quality officiating.

Folks, that $1 per game per fan wouldn’t purchase half a hot dog or a couple swallows of warm flat beer on a Sunday afternoon at New Mile High.

What we’re getting isn’t worth spit.

The NFL prides itself on integrity.

It fines and suspends coaches, players and assorted front-office types enormous amounts of money for hits that are deemed too hard, driving that is deemed too alcohol-impeded, needles or pills that create too much growth, bounties to harm other players and a wide variety of other misdeeds.

Yet it tries to pass off as the real deal decisions either made or not made by people not much more qualified than you or me.

I am not trying to disparage anyone here, but can you imagine your friendly officiating crew at Stocker Stadium, in Montrose, Durango, Glenwood Springs or Nucla, hopping on a plane en masse early on a Sunday morning and heading for Dallas to do a Cowboys-Redskins game? How about Sunday’s Broncos-Raiders bash that will surely have the locals stoked?

That is exactly what is happening.

Two weeks ago, we watched the Broncos play at Atlanta. We were appalled as we watched Roddy White catch a touchdown pass on a crossing pattern in which it was later shown that not two, but three illegal picks had been set.

We then watched as the Broncos and Falcons skirmished near the sideline as officials tumbled and stumbled, trying to get 300-pounders to use their quiet voices and go sit down nicely.

Late Sunday night, Bill Belichick, the New England coach known for showing absolutely no emotion, nearly strangled an official who would not give him an explanation of yet another game-deciding call.

He will surely be fined, as were Denver head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio after the Atlanta game.

One of the players spouted off on his Twitter account, very much against league directives, after last week’s games and said, “I hope the league fines me big time, then it can use the money to help solve this mess.”

Come on, Goodell. Get this thing settled.

The players, coaches and, yes, the fans deserve better.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher.


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