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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. (Associated Press)<br>

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. (Associated Press)

Gazzolo: Brees partially right in bashing replacement officials

Last Modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 12:07 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Drew Brees called it “horrendous” and “embarrassing.”

No, he wasn’t talking about the Saints’ play through the first three games of the season, though he clearly could have been.

Instead, the Saints’ quarterback was discussing the work of the replacement officials, who have botched games in just about every way possible, even changing an outcome.

With the fourth week about to begin in the NFL tonight, it is becoming more and more clear, the inmates are running the asylum.

Brees, of course, is partially correct. The officiating has been horrendous, but it’s not the league that has been embarrassing. That label has to go equally in part to the players, who have decided that when the cats are away the mice will play, cheat and even take more than a few cheap shots.

In a league where winning is everything, the final score is all that matters. To reach that end the players have decided to do whatever they can, pushing the envelope until they have turned the games into an ugly mosh pit of grabbing, holding and whining.

Brees is not alone in his feelings. Most players don’t like what is happening. Yet I haven’t heard a one take responsibility for their own personal actions.

Instead, what we have gotten was best put by ESPN announcer Mike Tirico who said the players are treating the new officials like substitute teachers. They have been given no respect and no leeway.

While it is always easy to blame the sub, you have to blame the students as well.

In this case we have to look at the players; it is they who are trying to cheat the system. Players have a chance to police themselves. They don’t need to test the officials on every snap.

If some big-name star gets hurt by a chop block that isn’t called, or somebody else takes a cheap run at a quarterback cutting off part of his ear, then it is on that player dishing out the hit and that player alone. He has the power to make the right decision. He knows the rules.

Monday night was not the first time a game has been decided by a bad call. It’s happened in the playoffs in the past, with the real officials.

They have blown calls when championships were on the line. But now it is OK to blame the guys in stripes. Clearly, they have hurt the game, but it is time the players step up and take some responsibility as well.

That’s not politically correct in today’s world, where everybody seems to need an excuse when something goes wrong.

As for other blown calls at big moments of games, the record book is loaded with them.

Check when Pittsburgh beat Oakland on the immaculate reception, or when the Steelers beat the Oilers in the AFC title game of 1980. Then there was Drew Pearson pushing off the Minnesota Vikings defensive back in a playoff game in the 1970s. Green Bay once beat the Chicago Bears in 1989 when their QB threw a TD pass after clearly going over the line of scrimmage. We have had the Tuck rule, the Holy Roller. Yes, the replacement guys are not good, but we have always had missed calls. The game is too fast for the 50-year-old bank exec who only officiates on Sundays.

Get younger, make them full time to train all year and finally get it right.

Then we can maybe end most of the embarrassment for good.

•••

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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