Sunday, September 9, 2001 Updated: September 10, 9:59 AM ET
Replacement referees relatively anonymous
By Len Pasquarelli ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- They were, in the earthy vernacular of this strong union enclave, seven "scabs" working a regular-season NFL game under heavy scrutiny.
For the most part, however, the seven-man replacement crew that officiated the taut and tense overtime game between the Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams on Sunday succeeded in remaining relatively anonymous.
And, thankfully, for the two Super Bowl-contending teams, pretty much blame-free.
"I thought they did a really good job," said Rams coach Mike Martz after his team's 20-17 victory. "Look, we'd all like to have the regular guys out
there. But I felt, on a whole, that it went pretty well."
The crew was headed by referee Al Hynes, who works in the league offices reviewing tapes of officials every week. Remarkably, given his supervisory position, Hynes had never worked an NFL regular-season game before Sunday afternoon.
The rest of the crew included umpire Mike Semcheski, head linesman Jim Guinan, line judge Owen Grogan, field judge Jerry Sybertz, side judge Charles Phillips and back judge Rich Wilborn. The alternate was Jack McElwee.
Grogan and Wilborn are from the Arena II league. Semcheski, Guinan, Sybertz and Phillips are from the Big East and McElwee from the Southern Conference, according to a list of replacement officials obtained by ESPN.com. The league did not identify the affiliations of the officiating crew.
For the most part, they let us play. ”
— Jeremiah Trotter on replacement referees
The crew called just nine penalties that were accepted, including only two against the Eagles. Notable was that the officials used their flags on special teams infractions more than was anticipated, and they nullified a long touchdown return by the Rams' Az-Zahir Hakim on a
"For the most part," said Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, "they let us play."
There were only two calls on which the officials were forced front and center. The first came late in the fourth quarter and a fourth-and-goal play
from the St. Louis 1-yard line. Philadelphia fullback Cecil Martin caught a
pass from Donovan McNabb and seemed to get just over the goal line, then
was knocked back by Rams cornerback Aeneas Williams.
The initial signal was that Martin had been stopped short. Eagles coach Andy Reid challenged the play and, after a short review, the play was ruled a touchdown. The replay, and subsequent reversal, appeared to be the right call.
Late in regulation, the officials allowed the clock to run off about 10 to 15 seconds when the Eagles had the ball and Rams cornerback Dre Bly was injured. After a short huddle, the crew allowed the scoreboard clock to stand at 32 seconds and did not add any time, as the Eagles argued they should.
Hynes explained in a post-game pool report that officials could not ascertain definitively how much, if any, extra time had been run off the clock.
"I asked the back judge and ... he said when he checked the clock it was at 32 seconds," Hynes said. "Subsequently, I talked to the clock operator, and he told me that as soon as he saw the injury, he stopped the clock."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.