Referees in the NFL make mistakes all the time, and that makes sense because to err is to be human. But what doesn’t make sense is the NFL’s policy of calling out their own officials when they do get it wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I think admitting one’s mistakes is part of growing up, and it shows real courage and humility for a ref to come out in front of an angry sports populace and admit they blew a call. I really respected MLB umpire Jim Joyce back in 2010 when he finally admitted that he cost Armando Galarraga his perfect game (and basically changing the course of his career). But when the NFL or another professional organization comes out and says that their officials have made a mistake even before the officials themselves can admit it is wrong in my book.
Perhaps a prime example of what I’m talking about is the most recent instance of this. Earlier today NFL.com reported that the personal foul call on San Diego Chargers‘ defensive lineman Cam Thomas during a fourth-quarter field-goal attempt wasn’t correct. If you don’t know what penalty I’m talking about, it’s this play when Thomas shoved Texans’ long-snapper Jon Weeks to the ground. It was a 15-yard penalty that gave the Texans another three chances at the end zone. They only needed one, and the Texans were suddenly behind by just one touchdown. Eventually, they came back to win the game 31-28.
“No, this was not a correct call. This is not the intent of the rule as it was written,” Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating, said Tuesday on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access.” “The rule is to protect the snapper on a field goal or extra point from a direct forcible blow to the head or neck area, or with the crown/forehead/hairline parts of the helmet to the body. It was not designed to prohibit any contact with the snapper, which is what happened on this play.”
Now, I personally agree that the call was a little out there, and that this play contributed to the Texans winning the game. But what I don’t understand is why the NFL thinks it’s helpful to tell the media and the fans that it was wrong and publicly embarrass those officials. They should have instead pulled the refs aside, explained the situation and what the rule was intended for, and then encouraged them to admit their own mistake. That would have been much more helpful in the long run.
Another thing that I take issue with is that this is a very recent rule addition, and that the refs were just following what seems to be the NFL’s policy of hamstringing pretty much anything defensive players do against offensive players. It seems like every day there’s a new rule about not touching the quarterback here or not hitting a “defenseless player” here, etc. If the NFL wants their rules properly implemented, they should make them much clearer.
In closing, I question why the NFL would even come out and say that this was a blown call. In the end, it won’t change the outcome of the game, as I HIGHLY doubt that they’ll a) make the teams go back and replay that game or b) change the final score to reflect that mistake. All this does is give fans of the losing team more to complain about. Either way, any good coach would tell you that if you’re letting one call determine the game, you’re not playing well enough to deserve to win.
Cooper Welch is a Houston Texans writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cooperwelch1991, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also listen to his Locker Room podcast on iTunes.