The NFL has a fine mess on its hands…replacement officials have stolen the spotlight and three weeks into the season the football viewing public is in an uproar.  Back to back prime time games ending in somewhat shaky circumstances.  Games taking much longer than they should and often without any flow.  Players getting carted off the field after aggressive hits.  And more importantly there’s the appearance that the substitute  teacher has lost control of the classroom. 


A league that’s all about image has a rather sullied one right now.  And while I understand some of the owners ideas in the new CBA (substituting a pension for a 401K, adding extra officiating crews, more fulltime refs)… and recall more than a few bad calls over the years (two refs pointing in opposite directions following a fumble, a blown  coin toss)… the owners have lost this skirmish.  Add into the equation that these officials have jobs outside their officiating duties probably means they aren’t in the gamecheck cycle the players are… and thus able to take a hit in the pocketbook better. 


The owners are like Chuck Cranston (the town bully in “Footloose”)– able to push around players, networks and cities as they wish– and overconfidently challenge the refs in a game of tractor chicken.  They should have listened to Lori Singer– “Chuck, I’m not saying you’ve had TOO much to smoke.  I’m saying you’ve had a lot to smoke”.  The 2012 season is headed for the levee if the league doesn’t get its regular refs back.  I’m holding out for the hero that recognizes it’s best to concede.


That said, the Redskins are the third most penalized team in the league at 9.7 flags per game and the 94.3 yards are the most given up.  Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will likely get a fine in the wake of him chasing officials into the tunnel at Fed Ex Field after the game ended on a somewhat ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.  Precedence:  last week Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was aggressive with officials and received a $25,000 fine.


Deficient Defense– it’s ironic that Sam Huff isn’t working a full schedule as a Redskins Radio analyst this fall… because the case could be made the defensive play has been somewhat incomplete.  After three weeks, the unit ranks 29th in points allowed and 30th in yards given up.  A secondary that’s already banged up was exposed by a pass rush that dwindled to a pair of sacks minus Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo– surrendering scoring passes of 48, 59 and 73 yards.  I imagine Sam and Sonny feel a little deja vu this fall– as this team resembles the Redskins of the mid to late 60’s that scored at will but gave swiss cheese a bad name.


Another advantage the zebras have is even when the calls are correct, every fan thinks the refs are out to get them.  It’s never their team’s fault that they couldn’t tackle (like New England on Sunday night) or couldn’t keep the Seahawks pass rush from sacking their QB 8 times in the first half.  Fans never want to admit their team isn’t getting it done– and the replacement refs are the perfect ready-made excuse to get mad.


RG3ver– the rookie played well for the third straight week… passing for 221 yards and a touchdown while running for 85 yards and another score.  But the hits #10 is taking make on cringe… knowing he’s one hit away from being on the shelf.  Can a running quarterback survive the pounding in today’s NFL?


Inactivus Rex– not to be confused with Turnoverasaurus Rex, #8 finds himself inactive for a third straight week.  Much like Miss Moneypenny*, Grossman is around the office but never gets to go on any adventures (we’re discounting the appearance as a customs official in Diamonds Are Forever).  How much longer will the insurance policy be wearing Burgundy and Gold sweats?


Runningback Roulette– the Redskins use Alfred Morris almost exclusively for the third straight week.  The rookie’s 78 yards on 17 carries pushes his total to 263 for the season… and ten carries have gone to the team’s three other runningbacks (Darrel Young counts as a fullback) this fall.  Roy Helu remains the safety valve out of the backfield though with 3 catches Sunday and 7 on the season.


Representing the Triumvirate– Fred Davis notched 7 catches for 90 yards in the loss… almost doubling his output over the first two games.  With Pierre Garcon hampered by a foot injury,   RG3 needs his big target to bring it every week. 


Third and Loooonngg– the Skins were 3 for 12 in move the chains or get off the field situations… with NO 3rd & shorts (1 top 3 yards needed).  Ten of the twelve 3rd downs came with the Skins needing 7 yards or more… not the recipe for success.  That leads to RG3 going 3-8 for 32 yards and running the ball 4 times for 35 yards.  That and not Kyle Shanahan chasing officials into the tunnel should be the focus this week.


Dissecting the Division– Dallas leads the NFC East thanks to their week one win over the Giants, while Philadelphia’s technically in second because 0-0 is slightly better than 0-1 in the division.  At 1-2, the Skins could be on a collision course with a fifth straight last place finish– something that’s never happened in the NFC East.  The best division thus far?  Three weeks is merely a snapshot but the NFC West has the early lead at 8-4 (albeit with a tainted Seattle win over Green Bay)… as we come full circle to the officials again.


*The Bond series has Connery and Moore fans as well as arguments over whether Timothy Dalton or George Lazenby was worse… but credit the late Lois Maxwell for owning the role of Miss Moneypenny– even if she had lost her fastball by the 1980’s.  None of her successors have even come close to making an impact.