The fallout for the crew that officiated the Monday Night Football fiasco just keeps coming. In the days since that fateful Pacific Northwest evening, more and more details have come out about the referee who gave the Seahawks the win by calling the “Fail Mary” a touchdown for Golden Tate. His name is Lance Easley, a banker from Northern California, and his fateful evening as side judge in Seattle is going to stick with him for awhile. And as we learn more about the man who doesn’t understand what the word “simultaneous” means, the more we see he REALLY shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
He was not the right official to make the call
As the side judge, Easley was standing in the front of the end zone looking back at the Hail Mary play taking place in the left corner. This makes Easley the one responsible for not calling the blatant shove in the back that Golden Tate gave the Packers’ defender that would have been offensive pass interference. But there isn’t a referee alive who would make that call on the last play of the game, so we can give him a pass on that one.
The real problem comes during the catch when M.D. Jennings gets his hands on it and rotates towards the back of the end zone. Tate keeps fighting by reaching around Jennings, further obstructing the view of events from the front of the end zone where Easley is standing. Yet it is Easley who comes in with the touchdown signal over-ruling the back judge who had a clearer view of the whole scrum. Whether Easley is just cooler/stronger/more perusasive, we may never know, but his opinion is the one that got counted.
He’s too inexperienced by NFL standards
The NFL has pretty strict guidelines for who they will consider to be an official at the highest level. The league requires that its regular officials have 10 years’ of experience with at least five of those coming in major-college football. Easley comes a little bit short of that…by about a hundred miles.
Easley’s experience consists of refereeing football and basketball games at the high school, junior college, and Division III levels…spanning four years. So he’s not only underqualified by the level of football that he’s officiated, but also doesn’t have even half of the tenure that the regular officials have to have. When you haven’t seen very much, I guess that play could look like a simultaneous catch. I mean, high school kids are getting bigger and stronger these days, but come on…that’s not close.
He isn’t ready for D-I football just yet
But it isn’t like Easley didn’t try and get the required experience. In July, the referee attended the Stars and Stripes Academy for Football Officials, a Salt Lake City based refereeing clinic. The Academy is designed to match the experience of being a Division-I football official and is used to prepare refs for big time football. Everyone in the Academy are current BCS level officials who have worked the biggest games in college football, and the whole experience is designed to groom new officials to join their ranks.
Turns out, Easley didn’t quite have the stuff. According to one of the instructors, Karl Richins, Easley wasn’t ready to work Division I football and certainly not the NFL. Richins described Easley as a good guy, very nice, polite, and a good father to his son, who was also at the academy. But was he ready for big time football? “Absolutely not,” according to an official who works big time football.
One month later, the NFL hired him and he was working preseason games.
He has no grasp of the consequences of his actions
I’m sure that Easley feels bad about his actions, though. He embarrassed himself and the entire replacement ref constituency. He should probably lay low for awhile, let the heat of the moment die down and then quietly try not to get noticed the next time he steps foot on a field.
Or he could go out on the town and take pictures with co-eds in Packers gear. Last night, Easley was out enjoying a few adult beverages and thought it would be a good idea to take a few photos one night removed from the worst call of a poorly officiated weekend. Nothing says sorry quite like drunken Twitter pics!
Lance Easley isn’t a bad guy. By all accounts he is a very good guy and may one day be a very fine official. But for now, he’s ill-prepared for the duties that have been pushed upon him, and he made a huge mistake. He got put in a tough spot and came out looking pretty bad. But as it turns out, he never should have been in that spot to begin with.