We all knew it was going to come to this.

After weeks and weeks, we knew this was going to reach some chaotic climax.

It happened Monday night and it hit home right here in Santa Maria.

Longtime Central Coast referee Lance Easley, the side judge No. 26, was the one who ruled Seattle's Golden Tate had hauled in Russell Wilson's 24-yard TD pass.

Easley had no prior professional or major college football experience before this season. He works as a banker here in Santa Maria. He was the only member of the officiating crew with no professional experience.

His call was beyond controversial and it would be surprising if he officiates another NFL game.

Multiple replays showed M.D. Jennings, of the Green Bay Packers, intercepting the pass, coming down with both arms wrapped around the ball as Tate had one armed on the ball. It clearly looked like Jennings picked it off and still retained possession of the last-second pass after the scrum to give the Packers a 13-7 win.

At the very least there was blatant offensive pass interference on Tate that wasn't called.

The other referee Derrick Rhone-Dunn signaled an interception and touchback.

But, Easley's decision of a touchdown was then "confirmed" upstairs by the officials. Those replay officials had no choice but to rule it a catch, giving the Seahawks a 14-12 win. There was such confusion that players had to retrieve their helmets from the storage bins 10 or 15 minutes after the ruling as Seattle kicked the bizarre extra point.

Analysts and former players are already calling it the worst call in NFL history. Check out Packers tight end Tom Crabtree's Twitter account to see how he feels about it.

Ah, what a night for the NFL. Somehow a guy laying underneath the player who just caught the ball can put his hand on the football and have it ruled a touchdown.

Referees can't review who caught the ball. That's not a challengeable play.

Whoever the refs said caught the ball, that's who caught the ball. I think Easley got confused. He had to have thought the Packer player was on offense, saw he had the ball and ruled it a touchdown. That's the only logical explanation. It was clear Tate didn't have possession.

And the world is set afire.

Hundreds of millions of dollars changed hands in Las Vegas. The Packers had covered the spread, it seemed. But suddenly, winners were suddenly losers and losers were suddenly winners.

Can you blame Easley? That's the primary question 'round these parts.

Easley is a "small-time" ref who officiates many Central Coat football and  basketball games. High school and JC. He was even on the planning commission for the FCA All-Star game.

Before this game ever happened we here at the Santa Maria Times knew Lance was one of the replacement officials. Check out the photo we used of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh chewing him out during the preseason.

I think you can blame Easley. Sure, people will say that he was put in a tough spot, that he was bound to be thrown into the spotlight of scrutiny.

But, I say, Easley threw himself into the fire. He, as a replacement ref, or as his brethren would call him a "scab," knew what he was getting into.

He knew he couldn't handle the NFL. The officials in the NFL were the best of the best.

But Easley and the rest of the replacements can't handle the speed of the NFL.

The previous two weeks, I've noticed many problems with these referees, but the primary problem I saw was this: The game is WAY too fast for them.

There's so many things going on at once at such a high speed, these replacements can't keep up. It finally came to an ugly head Monday night.

In the end, we shouldn't blame Lance, we should blame the system and Goodell for fluffing up his ego and putting us all in the situation. The NFL is exerting its power, it won't bow down to officials.

For the last eight or nine seasons, my family has paid thousands of dollars to pay for the NFL's Sunday Ticket on DirecTV to watch the St. Louis Rams.

There are millions of families across the country and the globe who have done the same, albeit for different teams, but we deserve better than this. I feel more sorry for Packers fans than I do Easley.

If the NFL and Goodell can't break off a little extra change for these refs, then we might as well stop watching.

The players deserve better, the refs deserve better, and most importantly, we the fans deserve better.

This is my prediction: Easley and the rest of the refs are done. The regulars are back this week. I don't think anyone would argue that call.

(4) comments

Jerry Bee

http://www.stationcaster.com/player_skinned.php?s=71&c=1191&f=742171

veteran97

Best Damm call ever. Santa Maria "Center of the Best."...................Who cares if Las Vegas lost money on its covering of the bets. Easley does it from "small time to BIG TIME." Easley made the "CUT," so don't complain about the call. GreenBay the team with no-class, oh, maybe kindergarden. GB thinks their cheese don't stink. There's no crying ,-_-, in football. "THE" call on the field stands ~ Touchdown! Next up Leno, Letterman, Conan, Today Show, Good Morning America, etc..... No one ever said being an NFL Official was ever Easley. Raider Fan.

HalfCenturyNFLFan

My greatest hope had been that Mr Easley was such a student of officiating that not only did he study the rulebook (a judgment I'll hold in abeyance) but that he'd emulate some great officials such as Ed Hochuli and Jim Joyce in both recognized a blown call, and acknowledging it and would have acted as professionally and impressively as the aforementioned gentlemen in similar circumstances. I'm saddened to learn this gentleman has taken a somewhat arrogant stance of "I processed everything properly", when he was THE official with the best view of the flagrant OPI that the league itself admits warranted he conclusion of the game. The league did him a favor NOT to call him out by name. If that call had been correctly made, any controversy over "simultaneous possession" really would have been moot - though it seems his sideline view of the final sequence was blocked by players bodies.
I'm left to wonder that if the guy missed a flagrant OPI just seconds before how can the NFL trust him to have made the right call seconds later when he overrules another official to set "the ruling on the field" which in turn sets up how a challenge may be reviewed. Others have already commented on his understanding of the rules.
I thought originally he was decent guy out of his league, now a somewhat arrogant guy who sticks to "what he thought he saw" even if that stretches the video evidence, I trying to repress inferences that a banker might somehow have affected betting and fantasy football leagues... or other behavior between the game and today.
Sorry Lance, I'd have so much loved to think of you as a honorable guy who admitted a mistake...

50YrWisPackerfan

HalfCenturyNFLFan makes excellent points.regarding Mr. Easley's 'arrogance' in saying he made the right call. Mr. Easley also made an incredibly incompetent defensive pass interference call against Green Bay at the 6:00 mark of the 4th quarter. On that play Seattle had a 1st and 25 from their own 43. Video shows that Sam Shields, the Packer DB, had inside position on Sydney Rice, the Seattle receiver, throughout the play. Rice has his hand in Shields back beginning at the 43 yard line. His hand is wrapped around Shield's shoulder at the 30 and at the 27 he tries to leap over Shields with his right arm on Shields right shoulder and his left hand wrapped around Shields' helmet and facemask. As the ball comes down Rice pulls on Shields facemask with his left hand while continuing to have his right arm draped over Shields' right shoulder. The flag comes flying across the video and Mr. Easley goes and picks up the flag and then tells the referee the penalty is defensive pass interference. Jon Gruden said there was no way that was on Shields and that it should have been offensive PI on Rice. Instead of Seattle having 1st and 35 on their own 33 yard line, thanks solely to Mr. Easley's incompetence, they got a 1st and 10 on Green Bay's 25, a 42 yard reversal. While the play did not lead directly to a Seattle touchdown, it changed momentum and the field position battle leading to Mr. Easley's call on the last play of the game.

So Mr. Easley, if you are in denial about your call at the end of the game, you had better acknowledge you blew the pass interference call which set it up. I have watched professional football since 1959 and that offensive pass interference call may have been the most egregious I have ever seen. After seeing that play on Monday night I made a mental note that official number 26 was over his head and couldn't be trusted. I have no sympathy either with Mr. Easley's friends defending him. He had no business taking the initiative which put him in the position of being a replacement ref.

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