Labor talks broke down between the league and its referees in early June, meaning at this point it’s quite possible in September we’ll be watching games that don’t feature the officials we’ve come to know and trust so, so much.

Instead, there will be recently retired refs, arena league officials, low-level college officials, or some pleasant cocktail of all three. We’ve known this for quite some time, and the reaction to it has either been a fear of utter anarchy, or the realization that the current officials suck pretty bad, so while the suck factor may increase when the zebra replacements come in, the downgrade may only be marginal.

Opinions seem to be split between those two extremes, and that’s unlikely to change after a memo was uncovered by CBS Sports yesterday. In it Ron Baynes, the NFL’s director of recruiting, outlined specifically what kind of official is fit to be a scab.

Mike Freeman has the full memo, but here’s the key section:

1. An Official who have recently retired from a successful career in College officiating and is still physically able to officiate at a high level of competency.

2. Lower division college officials, professional league officials and semi-professional league officials whose window of opportunity for advancement has pretty much closed but who have the ability to work higher levels but just got overlooked

At first I belonged to the second group, the one that realizes scabs will likely still be able to explain the overtime rules more accurately and with far greater competence than any current employed official. And in that sense, item No. 1 is fine, as there were already many grey-haired, brittle men paroling NFL fields. The retired college refs could have come from a highly competitive conference like the SEC too, so the step down is minimal

It’s door No. 2 that scares me. The league is ready, eager, and willing to take on officials whose window of opportunity for advancement has”pretty much closed”? There’s a reason they were “overlooked”. They weren’t good enough for a higher level of college football, never mind the NFL.

The comprehension of the rules is concerning for new officials, especially since the regular refs have only had one full season to work with the new regulations regarding contact to the head and defenseless receivers. But to me that’s a lesser concern, because the playing field is far more level since no one has fully adjusted to the new rules yet, although the regular refs have clearly had more time and training.

No, my concern is much more simple: the speed of the game. If some or likely most of the replacement refs weren’t deemed eligible to advance to a higher rung and control an elite college game, then what kind of performance can we expect from them at the professional level in terms of seeing and identifying the intricacies of a play, and making the proper call?

And now the links part of the links post…

  • The Colts were reportedly waiting for Robert Griffin III to finalize his contract so that they could do the same with Andrew Luck. That’s happened, so logically Luck’s deal shouldn’t be too far behind. However, logic and Jim Irsay aren’t good friends. [PFT]
  • Former Jets head coach Herm Edwards gave a fake pep talk to the Jets, in which he played the role of current Jets head coach. Head asplode. [Awful Announcing]
  • The Dallas Cowboys are still very popular, valuable, rich, and loved by bandwagoning fans worldwide. [Forbes]
  • Peyton Manning is also still very rich and popular, and he’s able to make money pushing products he probably doesn’t use. [SI]
  • Jonathan Vilma officially filed a motion last night asking a judge to reconsider his order, and allow him to work out and rehab at the Saints facility during his suspension. [Albert Breer on Twitter]