NFL Officiating aka How to Succeed Without Really Trying

This has been the most bizarre NFL season that I can remember. Some football teams — like my Houston Texans and the Atlanta Falcons — seemingly reached the sixth game of the season and did a complete 180. One is spiraling downward and the other — my Texans — is on the rise.

Injuries have taken their toll worse than I can remember since 1999. I only remember 1999 because of how many first round draft picks went out in my fantasy league by week three. That was the year that Terrell Davis and Jamal Anderson blew out their legs, amongst a bevy of others. This year is worse. Every week, the NFL is losing a superstar — if not two — and the Patriots lose a third of their roster. It’s insane.

And then there is the officiating. How in the world is this being allowed to happen? It’s offensive to the die hard fans of the NFL that Roger Goodell allows these horrendous calls to happen each week. But then again, it’s Roger Goodell. He’s too busy soaking in his millions to actually care about his league.

Remember this one, guys?

How about the inadvertent whistle? What the heck is that? I pictured the cartoons — you know, like Looney Toons or Tom and Jerry — swallowed a whistle in excitement and could only talk in tweets. Kind of like this:

The Night Before Christmas (10)

It’s horrendous. The Fox pregame show did a segment investigating why it is so bad. ON NATIONAL TV. That’s right, Fox basically called out the NFL in their pregame show and asked the question we all want to know: why do NFL officials suck and why is there nothing being done about it?

Well, part of what was explained in that segment by former head of NFL officiating Mike Pereira is that the NFL fans and owners wanted a younger staff, and that there are roughly a third of all officials that could be considered newbies (keep in mind that you need a minimum of five years to referee in the postseason, so expect many of the familiar faces you have come to scorn this January). Secondly, he said since he stepped down in 2009 that they are on their third head of officiating. It seems like Dean Blandino is head of the clueless zebras.

Blandino’s main job is to apologize every Monday for blown calls. He does it too frequently, most recently with the aforementioned inadvertent whistle. But here’s what really bothers me about Blandino.

Bad calls are part of the game. They happen all of the time in the NBA and MLB, managers yell and the game goes on. That’s because it happens so quickly. That’s because not nearly every play is reviewable as those leagues tinker with new replay policies. That’s because in those two sports, there are way more judgement calls than there should be in the NFL. I mean for crying out loud, the strike zone is 100% a judgement call with each new home plate umpire… but that’s part of the game. You adjust.

And what happens when there is a replay in the NFL? You know who views it? Dean Blandino in New York City. So when he apologizes for a blown call by the officials…. yea, I bet you are as confused as I am.

The catch rules are preposterous and handled with such inconsistency that it is clear as day that NFL officials have no idea what a catch is anymore. Do you understand how insane that is? The offenses in the NFL have two main strategies. One is to establish the run to play the clock. The other is to establish the pass to play off the rush and surprise the opposing defense. I would say that it is a pretty critical part of the game to understand what a catch is and is not.

Golden Tate makes a catch. Odell Beckham does not. Looked the same, but it’s different. Make sense? Thought so.

Last night there were two absolutely horrendous — and game changing — calls against the Patriots, but since so many people want to see them lose they got swept under the rug. Patrick Chung’s defense interference and Gronk’s offensive interference were terrible calls. Gronk’s “pass interference” saw the Broncos defender with his hand on Gronk’s helmet for crying out loud. Consistency is important, and right now there is none.

The thing that drives me nuts is that they have these former officials in the booths as rules analysts. Whether you like Mike Carey or not, they make one thing clear. There is a huge discrepancy in the way that each official views the rules. When Mike Carey, for example, chimes in, “oh this will be overturned with the replay because it is clear as day that that was incomplete,”  and then it ISN’T incomplete, the NFL looks like buffoons. Whether Carey was right or Blandino’s crew was right, it was just made overtly apparent on national television that there is little common ground between referees and the rule book.

Something needs to be done, and I’m not talking about suspending a clock guy or taking away a referees opportunity to referee Sunday Night Football. These calls are effecting the outcomes of games. Like I said, in the MLB and NBA it happens as well, it is part of the game. But this is happening on a weekly basis across the board in the NFL. And it’s disgusting.

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