Ex-Ref Red Cashion on Replacements: 'I Hope Nobody Gets Hurt'
By: The Football Girl | Posted: August 04, 2012
When the Saints and Cardinals take the field tonight there will be plenty of unfamiliar faces. Joe Vitt, and not Sean Payton, is now the head coach in New Orleans. There will also be plenty of fourth and fifth string left guards (or fill in the blank) clawing to make the team. But the most unrecognizable people on the field tonight will not be coaches or players, but instead the replacement referees.
The NFL-referree lockout began on June 3rd, after negotiations over a new CBA broke down. The core issues being disagreement in salary increases and pension plans. The NFL has thus moved forward and hired replacement referees.
One glaring issue is that none of these replacements are currently even officiating major Division I football, which most would consider the J.V. of refereeing. According to the NFLRA (NFL Referees Association), Division I refs are not allowed to work as replacements and keep their current standing. Therefore, the officials we will see starting tonight come from smaller college divisions, the Canadian Football League, and the even the high school level.
“The folks who are going to be on the field are not of the NFL quality that coaches, fans and players are used to seeing,” said NFLRA President Scott Green in a media call three weeks ago.
During that call, famed referee Ed Hochuli said that none of these replacement officials were even on the NFL’s radar for future employment. According to Hochuli, the league carefully maintains a list of current refs in the college ranks who are considered for NFL jobs.
Another issue is that the NFL referee trainers declined to work with the replacements. Red Cashion, who became a trainer in 1998 after serving for 25 years on-the-field, said the decision was made to stay in favor with the regular officials to the long haul. The NFL’s response?
“Once we told the NFL, they said they no longer needed our services,” Cashion said.
Cashion, who recently released a book mixing philosophy with officiating, “First Dooowwwnnn…and Life to Go!,” doesn’t know whether or not to classify the NFL’s statement as a firing since trainers are seasonal employees. And he hopes to regain his position once the NFL and union come to a resolution.
The replacement referees did receive some form of training, but it didn’t come from Cashion, Jerry Markbreit and the seven other former officials the NFL thought it was best to have in this role pre-lockout.
Cashion started his NFL officiating career in 1972
The NFL trainer makeup works like this: two trainers for referees, two for the umpires and one for each of the other positions. Trainers focus less on rules and more on mechanics, which Cashion describes as “being the right place at the right time, doing the right thing and saying the right thing.” Think about the clarity and poise an official needs to have when explains why a call was overturned. That’s what the trainers help improve.
But mechanics are not Cashion’s chief concern -- player safety is.
“It’s kinda scary. I hope nobody gets hurt,” Cashion said.
While he is certain players will go out of their way to push the replacements as far they can, Cashion thinks the biggest challenge for these officials (and danger to the players) is the NFL’s inherent speed.
“In college you got some fast people, but in the NFL they’re all fast,” Cashion said. “They’re not going to walk out on the field and officiate with what is commensurate with the NFL for the simple reason that it’s nothing they’ve ever seen before."
While Cashion is concerned about most of the replacement officials, he had positive words about Shannon Eastin, who would become the first woman to ever officiate an NFL game. Cashion, who has observed Eastin work some games for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, thinks she is one of the few who might be ready for the next step.
“I think Shannon Eastin could be an NFL official, ” Cashion said. “I hope all the temporary officials are as good as she is.”
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