Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Officiating?

It seems NFL officials are being called out for bad interpretation of the rules, wrong calls, and game-changing decisions more than ever this season. Several instances occurred just this weekend, for example: Miami "recovered" a touchdown-turned-fumble by Pittsburgh but wasn't given possession which ultimately gave Pittsburgh a chance to score and win the game. The Bills "intercepted" Joe Flacco on a play that could have lead the Bills to their first victory, but NFL rules deemed it not a catch. Who, or what, is to blame?

I completely understand the ruling of the Pittsburgh fumble, but I don't agree with it. Same goes for the Ravens/Bills call. By rule, the INT was not an INT because the defender had one foot down, and the other on the receiver (Boldin I believe), and then went out of bounds...no catch, no INT. Now being a Ravens fan, I didn't mind the call, but I would argue that the defender caught it (one-handed, mind you) and maintained possession inbounds...sounds and looks like an catch/INT to me.

I don't think it's the officials interpreting the rules that's the problem, perhaps it's just the opposite. It's that they're literally following a set of guidelines and checking them off to determine Yes or NO, no interpretation needed. The rule book is so strict that the refs are following the directions rather than looking at the plays and determining what is or isn't a catch/fumble/etc. Let's review:

In Baltimore - What's a catch? Possession - check. Maintains control - check. Two feet in bounds (and on the ground)...hmm, one foot landed on the other player - no check. Not and interception. For the official, is that interpreting the rules or simply following them?

In Miami - This one's a little trickier. Roethlisberger fumbles the ball at the goal line and it's ruled a Touchdown; replay overturns it. Common sense says that the Dolphins should have had possession with three players on top of the ball at the end of the play (one guy looked as though he came up with it and has the ball in his hands). The officials couldn't really look at that because the whistle had blown and the team who fumbled gets possession at the 1-yardline...or something to that effect. The head official also made it sound like they couldn't determine who had the ball, and I'll admit it's tough seeing who has possession at the bottom of a dog-pile, but that one didn't look too questionable. Again, is this the refs interpreting the rules or are they just following the orders of the NFL to determine calls?

It really comes down to the "Common Sense" argument we've been having all season. NFL rules (and yes, replay) all but eliminate any benefit of the doubt, whether we think they should or shouldn't. Should officials have the right to interpret the rules for themselves? There's obvious arguments for and against, but in my humble opinion, that's why you hire officials - to make the calls. It's the same in virtually every sport...Baseball doesn't use replay to review every pitch, people trust the Umpire. Mistakes are made but that's a part of the game experience. Or should we just go to some automated system that analyzes every aspect of a play and determines YES or NO?

Again, you can argue both sides, but how do we determine what the right call is? Common sense? Rules and guidelines? Or is there some other approach to solving the problem with NFL officiating, if there even is one?

For more discussion check out Footballproslive.comTurk and Cris provide some thoughts...

1 comment:

  1. This officiating thing is really persistent in the League. I think the refs and rules are doing like Major League Baseball and are becoming part of the show!

    Some of the rules being the way they are appear to be for competitive reasons so the team can fit into criteria for winning the game within a strict margin of guidelines.

    Other rules appear to be to protect the "money" positions of the League that play a significant role within the offense but are also often contacted by defenders.

    Nonetheless, I think this era is suffering greatly from the rules that are interpreted as they are and causing some crazy disadvantages (i.e. Calvin Johnson in Chicago at the end of the game). It'll be interesting to see how today's players help to change the League 10 years from now.


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