Jerry Markbreit was an NFL official for 33 years, the referee in eight conference championships and four Super Bowls.
He never saw anything close to what he witnessed Monday night.
Markbreit was at home outside of Chicago, watching Green Bay play at Seattle, and — like millions of other viewers — he was stunned by the officiating calls that were made, the ones that weren’t made, and the Seahawks’ game-winning Hail Mary that wasn’t a catch but an interception.
“I don’t like to see injustice at all,” Markbreit said by phone Tuesday morning. “And I think that injustice has been served on our officials. But this is injustice against a team that deserved to win this game, and it’s terrible. It makes you feel bad. It puts a stain on officiating everywhere.
“The officials that work all the other sports look at this thing and say, ‘My gosh! How could the NFL put these inexperienced guys, to represent the officiating world, on the biggest stage they have? Shame on them.’”
Markbreit, 77, who retired as a game official in 1999, has spent the past decade as an officiating trainer with the league. When the league locked out the officials in June, the trainers were told their services would not be needed either.
Watching Monday’s game, Markbreit found it especially galling that, when the two officials in the end zone had opposite calls, one calling a touchback or time out and the other a touchdown, the referee didn’t step in get both zebras on the same page.
“This is a routine play from our guys,” he said. “It’s a wonderful play, and it’s a great play to officiate, and it’s a great play to get correct.
“The head referee should come down. Anytime you have a play where you have two decisions — one yes, one no — the referee comes down, ‘What’s going on guys?’ that’s negotiation. That’s what a referee does. He doesn’t just call fouls, he negotiates the game.”