I’m only a retired mid-level soccer referee. I have never refereed a football game much less a professional one. I have blown plenty of calls in my life. I want to take a look at two blown calls from this weekend’s NFL Conference Championship games. One is a typical blown call and the other is a career-ender.
First, let’s take a look at what I think happened with a “typical” blown call in the Patriots-Chiefs game. The Chiefs are penalized fifteen yards for a blow to the head. Brady’s head is not touched.
Simply appalled at the roughing the passer call against the Chiefs late in the game….how is slapping Brady’s shoulder a personal foul??!! Don’t believe me or think I’m a hater then watch below https://t.co/JkJVA0IRch
— William Heiges II (@Heiges2) January 21, 2019
The official who threw the flag was reading the situation, the arm, the ball, the reaction and everything except the actual contact. He had half a second to process a pass rusher making a reach move to the quarterback. He saw contact. He saw the quarterback’s head move slightly funny. And he threw the flag despite not seeing the actual contact because his training and his experience put all of the other cues into a coherent story that led him to see a foul even when there was not a foul.
A referee should only call what they see. They should not call what they expect. The should not call the situation. They should not call the player’s reaction.
Yet we cheat.
I’ve been awarded penalty kicks on reading reactions as my brain swore I was seeing a trip despite not seeing the actual clip on the ankle or the stuck out leg. Most of the time when I look at the tape, I was right. However I have screwed up on reading very funny body reactions that were natural and not due to illegal contact. I had to make a bang bang decision and I got it wrong. I think that is what happened here. Every cue was saying “flag” but for the actual contact.
Now let’s go to what should be a career ender for two officials:
#NFL A “pass interference” foul is when the chap in white hits the guy in black BEFORE he is with the ball … But apparently this is not a good example … And this crucial decision cost the Saints the game ….. #NewOrleansSaints #Rams pic.twitter.com/NjUVwCoLaA
— Jide Oyetunde Esq (@jideo2005) January 21, 2019
There are two fouls on this play. The first is the obvious mugging/defensive pass interference. The defender (in white) can’t make more than incidental contact with the receiver until the ball gets to a catching position. The second foul is targeting the head of the receiver (in black.)
Two officials were supposed to be watching this event. I could understand if one saw something and the other saw nothing illegal. I could understand if both officials saw something but did not agree with what the other saw. I can understand a lot if there was a flag.
This is clinic tape on what pass interference looks like. The defender ran through the receiver well before the ball arrived. It should never be missed. It is the equivalent of a soccer referee crew missing a flying crane kick going studs up into the face of an opponent or a World Cup crew in a knock-out game missing a shoe string tackle to prevent a break-away. These are calls that should never be missed.
I hope that I have never missed a “never miss” event. I have seen fellow referees miss “never miss” calls. One was just not looking where he needed to be looking as he was gassed and out of position and the studs up contact to the ribs was behind a scrum. The assistant referee was seventy yards away and also screened. Another the referee was staring at a punch and his brain froze. The assistant referee got it in a second after she processed that the center was out to lunch.
There was no physical exhaustion or screened scrum excuse. This is a decision that should lead to at least one if not two officials to be hanging up their whistles.