Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps it is the advent of HD televisions or the increased usage of instant replay, but the officiating in the NFL seems to have gotten considerably worse. I’ve watched a LOT of football in my years, but I don’t ever recall it being this noticeable. I’m not a disgruntled fan angry over a loss. And, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the lucky few who get to officiate in the NFL. It’s a very tough job without a doubt. And, they are human – but lately it seems they are more human than ever. Let’s take Sunday night’s Cowboys-Redskins game as just one small sample.
They say in the NFL there could be holding called on every play. I get that. As frustrating as it is at times, I understand that players are allowed to grab on to a jersery and hold on for dear life as long as their arms don’t get outside the chest area. But, those rules seemed to have been relaxed quite a bit of late. On more than one occasion Sunday night, I noticed Redskin blockers holding onto the outside of a defender’s shoulder pads – or in one case putting him in a virtual head lock but no call. I also see a lot of no calls when a defender is trying to move laterally and can’t get away from the blocker because he has two big handfuls of jersery. It’s one thing to use the jersey grab for leverage against a guy coming towards you, but when he is moving sideways or away from you, holding on to him is well…holding, isn’t it? Or, it should be. It’s out of control.
Of course, the obvious incident from Sunday night was the Hatcher sack on RGIII that was called an incomplete pass. D-Line coach Rod Marinelli went berserk but the officials added insult to injury when they reviewed the play, admitted they screwed up, reversed the call but then enforced the 15-yard unsportsman like penalty on Marinelli giving Washington new life. I’m sure whatever Marinelli said or did, there has been much worse that didn’t warrant a yellow hankie. Bad call made even worse by another bad call on top of it – and it kept a drive alive that produced points for the Redskins who got a field goal.
Then, there were the multiple calls for hitting RGIII out of bounds. Granted, you can’t even come close to that or you’ll get the call. But, early in the game, RGIII was headed out of bounds and turned it right up the sideline for another 6 or 7 yards. I can’t blame Barry Church entirely for wanting to make sure he got out of bounds after seeing that. Dumb play by Church that could have cost us, but they are treating RG Knee like he still has the red non-contact jersey on from practice. It was pretty ticky-tack at times.
And, in the category of great no-calls, Brandon Carr actually blocked a Redskin player in the back on the Dwayne Harris’ long punt return for a touchdown, but it wasn’t a significant part of the play. So, the referees either didn’t see it or let it go. Works for me! But, technically it should have been called and if it were the Redskins that got the benefit of that call, we’d all be screaming.
Finally, more and more lately, it seems that the referees are missing the correct spot of the football. On most plays, it’s not that critical. But when it is close to a first down, it can make a huge difference in a game. It’s a call coaches can challenge, but it happens so often it seems, they’d quickly run out of challenges. Seems like with all the technology available to us that the NFL would have figured that one out by now and stopped leaving it up to a group of typically older guys distracted or obstructed by the masses of flesh around them to determine exactly where the ball ended up. If you are going to apply the precision of measuring for a first down – where a single link in a chain can mean the difference between winning or losing – you should figure out ways to get it more exact. Lasers and GPS and stuff…
Anyway, our Cowboys got the win Sunday night so we’re all feeling pretty good right now. But, the repeated missed or incorrect calls won’t always go our way like some of them did last weekend. The Cowboys don’t get a lot of calls – the one where McCray was blocked into the punt that hit him squarely on the rear end comes to mind as particularly crucial. I’d feel better if the officials just made the right calls more often. The referees seem to have a bigger and bigger impact on the outcome of games in the modern NFL. I’m not entirely sure the replacement referees ever went away – am I the only one that didn’t notice a huge change when the dispute with the officials’ union was resolved? Still not seeing it. Go Cowboys! Let’s feast on some eagle on Sunday – no matter what the officials say.