After three games, the Ravens perennially imposing defense is ranked 27th in the league and lacks the dominant look opponents and fans have come to expect from the purple and black. What began as preseason whispers has turned into an open lament: the defense is going to have to rely on the offense to win games. Panic button. Identity crisis. Baltimore's defense is on the decline. This premature hysteria is understandable, especially considering the predictions leading into the season.
Dear Mr. Goodell and Co., Your warning to coaches and players regarding showing respect for the replacement officials is a slap in the collective face of your fans- your market. The league has intentionally allowed the quality of games to be downgraded simply to avoid paying more money to the professional officials. It is transparent that in demanding teams to “respect” (in other words avoid criticizing) the incompetent replacements, you are simply requiring respect for the league's mistake. It would seem you have all the leverage, so why should you negotiate with the legitimate officials? Replacement referees or not, people will watch the NFL. Demand for your product has become virtually inelastic. Consider this however: The NFL is more than simply a product. Each Sunday is a piece of history, every year a part of the legacy. Fans are not just consumers. They store up the memories- triumphs and defeats- and those memories become a part of who they are as fans of their teams, the league, and the sport. A year in which the league allows the integrity of the game to suffer will likely not cost you financially.
The New England Patriots dynamic two tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez took the league by storm last year. As the Patriots head into Baltimore this weekend, all indications point to one part of the duo sitting out.