Even famous NFL alumni know the league must fix its broken officiating. Now.
Head official Clete Blakeman and his crew are under fire for their controversial calls in the Packers' 23-22 victory vs. the Lions Monday night. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Even famous NFL alumni know the league must fix its broken officiating. Now.

When it comes to prototypical "football men," there aren't many with the clout of Jack Del Rio: USC star, All-American, Rose Bowl MVP, 11-year NFL career, Pro Bowler, NFL coach for 22 years, including a dozen as a head coach — great name and a solid jawline to boot. 

When he sounds the alarm this loudly and this repeatedly about the NFL’s officiating woes after yet another Monday night meltdown, it's clear the league has a massive problem on its hands: 

Del Rio is not the only gridiron great to make his opinion known on Twitter, radio and television. Far from it, as Monday night’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions ignited yet another chorus of criticism.

Detroit was the better team for much of the contest and almost certainly would have won if not for multiple questionable calls that seemed obvious to just about every person not in black-and-white stripes on this chilly Green Bay evening. On a 3rd-and-10 early in the fourth quarter, officials negated a Kevin Strong sack of Aaron Rodgers because of a phantom hands to the face penalty on Detroit’s Trey Flowers. Three players later, Rodgers found Allen Lazard for a touchdown pass to cut Detroit’s lead to 22-20. 

On the game’s last drive, with the Lions still ahead by two, Flowers was again called for a hands to the face penalty, giving the Packers a fresh set of downs. They’d ultimately kick a field goal as time expired to win the game:

“I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty,” Flowers said after the game in the Lions locker room. “I thought hands to the face, but I had him right here in the chest. The second time I changed it to right here (another spot on the chest). That’s part of a move that I do and, yeah. So, nah, I don’t think that was a penalty, but they did, so …” 

That’s not to mention a questionable no-call on the previous drive, a would-be pass interference on Green Bay’s Will Redmond, whose arm draped across Marvin Jones on a big pass, nor a perplexing unnecessary roughness penalty on the first play of the third quarter. 

Forget ammunition for those who question the NFL’s officiating. This provided a whole new arsenal for those who believe an official’s primary role is to facilitate a good, clean game and not to determine playoff spots. Monday’s mayhem very well could. 

The Lions fell to 2-2-1 with the loss, but more importantly the Packers improved to 5-1. Had the result been flipped, Detroit would be atop the NFL North at 3-1-1, and Green Bay and Minnesota would be tied for second at 4-2, with Chicago a half-game behind at 3-2. 

You don’t think Monday’s result will come into play in late December? 

Former NFL MVP and Super Bowl-winning QB Joe Theismann does:

It’s always something to behold when NFL luminaries criticize the league that made them so famous. NFL veterans, particularly those still inside the league — whether in coaching or administrative positions, media roles or simply those still trading in NFL circles — are loath to call out Big Brother. It can certainly impact their bottom lines. 

So when they speak out in such a chorus, we should listen: 

More importantly, the league should listen. 

There must be a leaguewide coming of the minds. Instant replay for any play is necessary. Cut the play clock if you need to speed up the game. Make teams adjust and not referees, who are in over their heads. 

That’s the scary little secret no one in the league will admit: It is damn near impossible to accurately survey the high-speed collision that is the modern NFL. The fastest edge rusher in the 2019 NFL Draft, Washington's Montez Sweat, ran a 4.41 40. The fastest running back, the Ravens' Justice Hill, ran a 4.40 — just one-hundredth of a second difference. Even offensive linemen run 4.8 40s now. 

There is speed everywhere. And a referee is supposed to accurately record the moment in live action? Come on. 

Radical action must be taken. Scale back on the punishment, if not the enforcement. Use drone officials, robo-officials (Robofficials™) — anything. 

Because we all know what’s at stake: trust. 

It's the most important five-letter word in football since E-L-W-A-Y

How are we supposed to trust what we’re seeing if the greats of the game don’t trust what they’re seeing? 

It’s one thing for Joe Sixpack to question what he sees. When Joe Theismann does it? That’s a problem.

Jon Gold is an award-winning features writer and columnist with more than a decade of full-time beat, features and columnist experience. He has hosted television and radio shows, podcasts and YouTube videos.

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