SALT LAKE CITY — When hired as an NFL official in the 1980s, John Robison of Bountiful attended his first meeting, then called his wife.
"I can never be this good," he told her. "These guys are phenomenal."
He went on to tell her, "I don't think I'll be in this very long."
Now an administrator at the Davis School District, Robison, who left the NFL in 1998, says the league's current officiating chaos is to be expected.
"It's a travesty, bottom line," he said.
The problem, brought on by replacement refs via a work stoppage, was accentuated on Monday when a botched call led to Seattle's last-second win over Green Bay. Officials made what appeared to be conflicting calls, then awarded the game-winning touchdown after misinterpreting the rules.
Robison, who was a back judge during his 14-year NFL officiating career, called Monday's foul-up, "an easy play to call, in comparison to a lot I've seen in other games."
Good officials first look for the initial possession, he said, because it becomes a wrestling match once the ball gets to the ground. Then they meet for a few seconds to assess the situation before making a decision.
Asked if he sympathizes with the replacement officials, he said, "Nobody twisted their arms and said this is your livelihood for the rest of your lives. These guys, I assume, were doing this to make a little bit of money and be able to step on an NFL field. I can't imagine those seven guys going home with smiles on their faces. I think I'd be calling the league and saying enough is enough. But they knew what they were getting in for, so it's hard to feel bad for them. They have to know it's going to be tough."9 comments on this story
Robison came into the NFL after extensive Division I college and bowl game experience. Some of the replacement officials include Arena Football League and even high school officials.
The primary job of an official, he said, is to protect the players.
"They've got to change this, or something's going to happen," Robison said. "It's only going to get worse."