Friday Baba Ghanoush: Josh Cribbs, Ravens, Browns and the Return of the Refs
Welcome football fans and happy Friday! This is the Friday Baba Ghanoush (which, in fact, is a real thing), a weekly column similar to the newly revived Tuesday Stew, where I’ll be breaking down the top stories of the week, reviewing the Thursday night game, previewing the upcoming games, as well as adding some flash and pizzazz to get everybody excited for the weekend.
As we all know, it’s been a very hectic week following Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks ending. Aside from that, and the NFL and NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) finally reaching a deal that brings the professional officials back, there are other headlines, a Browns-Ravens recap, plus a preview the upcoming slate of games.
So without further adieu, here’s what I’m serving up in this week’s Baba Ghanoush (which is just so much fun to say):
NFL News of the Week: Regular Refs Return
Unless you’ve been living under a rock prior to the final play of Monday Night Football’s Packers-Seahawks “toucherception“ fiasco, then you know by now what happened and the ensuing firestorm that followed in the media and across the Internet. So I won’t get into that. You also know by now that there’s been an agreement between the NFL and NFLRA that brings back the professional officials, replacing the replacement referees. So I won’t get into that, either.
What I do want to get into is the new appreciation that we, as football fans, should have for the professional officials. After three regular season weeks and an entire preseason that featured the replacement referees, anger over their inability and incompetence to run a NFL game exponentially increased by the week. Then, after the Packers-Seahawks finale, enough was enough. It was time for a deal to happen.
Once the NFL-NFLRA agreement was reached, an enormous wave of gratitude and support for the professional officials swept the nation. We finally got our officials back, and at the same time, marked the end of a very ugly period in NFL history.
But, we also gained a valuable appreciation for our officials, learning just how much they actually mean to the game we know and love.
The replacement referees clearly displayed that, without the proper knowledge and training to officiate at the NFL level, the league’s “shield” cracks, then subsequently shatters. Yes, it was a nightmare to watch these guys in action and also side-splittingly hilarious to make fun of at the same time. What we need to know though, is that it wasn’t their fault; they were thrown into this situation by the NFL without the proper knowledge and training that is needed. They tried to do the best they could, but it wasn’t good enough because we–coaches, players and fans–had been so accustomed to the high standard the professional officials had set.
That’s why we need to appreciate and be thankful for their presence on the football field. Sure, they’re going to make mistakes and make bad calls; they are human, as are the replacement referees. However, the big difference between the professional officials and the regular referees is the ability to keep up with the pace of the NFL and call fair games. The speed of professional football is insanely fast to keep up with on the field, not to mention intimidating sizes of players and constant screaming from coaches. The professional officials know how to handle the situation though and don’t back down from players and coaches during games. They also, more times than not, make the correct calls, and if not, they consult one another on what happened and spend time reviewing the replay to get the correct call. The professional officials aren’t affect by hometown bias (speculation on Baltimore and Seattle final play rulings), being fans of a certain team (replacement ref’s Saints g ear photos on Facebook), or fantasy football (according to LeSean McCoy).
The professional officials are the driving force that, until this season, were underappreciated. Though we may react negatively to them when they make a call we feel is bad, we also need to be thankful that they have returned. Just from the Browns-Ravens Thursday night game, it’s easy to see that the flow and rhythm of the game is a much-less interrupted process.
So, welcome back regular refs, very glad to have you all back. I will never take you all for granted again, because, we’ve all learned, it could always be worse.
Friday’s Thoughts on Thursday Night
Speaking of that Browns-Ravens game, it was much closer than most of us (including myself), probably anticipated, and turned out to be a compelling contest to the end. Though it featured two of the NFL’s top young running backs to watch in Browns rookie sensation Trent Richardson and Ravens fifth-year All-Pro veteran Ray Rice, this game, in a pass-first league, was ultimately decided at quarterback. Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden continued his struggles, while the Ravens Joe Flacco kept proving why he deserves to be ranked among the best in the league. A pick-six thrown by Weeden to cornerback Cary Williams proved to be the difference in the 23-16 Ravens victory.
While the Ravens seemed poised for another deep playoff run, the Browns seem to be taking steps in the opposite direction. Other than Richardson, no one else on the offense provides much of a threat. The receiving corps, especially Greg Little, continue to drop passes, and Weeden impresses for a few plays before making a bone-headed error. Now, I understand he’s a rookie, but I still question the organization’s decision to pick him 22nd-overall in this year’s draft. By doing so, they’ve once again set themselves back from continuing to developing a quarterback, and he becomes their sixth new opening day starter in as many years.
Personally, I still believe that the Browns should’ve stayed with Colt McCoy or pursued Matt Flynn in the offseason, rather than draft Weeden. Additionally, they should’ve taken Riley Reiff and Stephen Hill in the draft over Weeden and Mitchell Schwartz. Remember, Reiff was available at No. 22 and was actually taken by the Lions the very next pick after Weeden, and Hill was still available when the Browns selected Schwartz.
It’s going to be another long season in Cleveland, and being from the northeast Ohio area, I do feel bad for the pain that the passionate Browns fans have to endure, especially when they had the opportunities to really improve the team prior to the start of this season and simply passed over those chances. Now, with new ownership in Jimmy Haslam, not only does it seem to be a certainty that he’ll clean house this offseason, but possibly before the season is over at the rate things are going.
Other highlights from last night’s game:
-Ravens receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin had big nights, with Smith catching six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, and Boldin hauling in nine passes for 131 yards.
-Browns kicker Phil Dawson is as automatic as they come. He converted a 50, 51 and 52-yard field goal, all in a rainy second half nonetheless.
-Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs took a scary hit on a punt return in the first quarter that ended his night. His helmet was knocked off and he lay on the ground for several minutes before, fortunately, he was able to walk off the field under his own power.
Five Must-See Week 4 Games
1. Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions, Sunday 1pm
After the Vikings upset win last week against the 49ers, could they be legit? We’ll find out when they take on the dangerous duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
2. San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets, Sunday 1pm
With the Jets losing All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, will their defense completely sputter? Also, the 49ers can prove that they belong among the league’s elite.
3. New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers, Sunday 4:25
A must-win game for the 0-3 Saints and 1-2 Packers; who would’ve thought they’d be a combined 1-5 after their opening night 42-34 shootout in 2011? They still have the potential to be offensive juggernauts, but it’s really going to come down to Drew Brees vs. Green Bay’s D.
4. New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday 8:20
Nothing better than a primetime NFC East rivalry. If Eagles quarterback Micahel Vick puts out another poor performance, will head coach Andy Reid bench him?
5. Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys, Monday 8:30
Finally, a Monday night game where there shouldn’t be absolute chaos because the professional officials are back on the field.
Weekend Words Of Wisdom
As football fans and from a football standpoint, we now appreciate the professional officials because we didn’t know what we had until it was gone. But that lesson can be extended across all aspects of life, family, friends, significant others, etc. Appreciate and be thankful for what you have today because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.