NFL Referees: Blowing The Whistle On Poor Officiating

By Justin Harvey
January 08, 2012 9:54 pm
1,271 Views 15 Comments
It seems like this is said and heard a lot, but the Steelers are yet again on the receiving end of a beneficial blown call in a crucial playoff game.  One must begin to wonder if the NFL is just in love with this team and can't stand a Super Bowl without them in it.   I say that half-kidding, but it does seem like this team has gotten a lot of questionable calls over the years.

Let's take a look at the call that has me pretty annoyed currently.  Ben Roethlisberger throws a pass at his own 19-yard line that goes -1 yards and bounces off the hands of the intended receiver and hits the turf on the 18-yard line, well behind the line of scrimmage.  It is clearly a fumble recovered by Denver, but play is then blown dead.  The Steelers are going to get the ball back, despite a backwards pass that by all accounts was a fumble.  Fox throws the red flag and challenges, and even the announcers sounded pretty confident that the Broncos will get this call, based on the rules and replay.  And then, much like the worst call of the season in my opinion (the non-challengeable fumble on New York Giant's receiver Cruz against the Cardinals in week four of the season that may have cost the Cardinals a chance at the playoffs), the response of the challenge is "you can't challenge because I blew my whistle already."

Really?  That's the excuse, and as fans we are supposed to just swallow this pill and like it?  I am sorry, but I am calling shenanigans on that.  Just because you blew the whistle doesn't mean the NFL rulebook gets tossed out the window.  The rule is clear.  If the ball is thrown behind the line of scrimmage it's a LIVE ball.  If you can challenge a play, you can also say a referee made the wrong call and the whistle should not have been blown and based on the outcome of the play prior to the errant whistle, this is what would have and should have happened. 

What blows my mind is the play has already taken place, it's not as if the whistle affected the decision of Ben Roethlisberger.  The whistle came well after the throw and fumble.  The excuse that the "whistle has already been blown" sounds more like an excuse to give the ball back to the Steelers in the 3rd quarter with PLENTY of time to come back down the field and make it a one possession game.  And of course, what happened?  The Steelers drove down field, scored a touchdown on that very possession, and then eventually tied the game and forced OT.  Had it not been for an incredible catch and run by Thomas at the beginning of overtime, the Steelers could have won a game that they had no business even being in.  Thankfully this year, we won't have to hear about a Steelers win that was based in terrible officiating, but had the Steelers won the toss in OT, and had they gotten the first chance to score, we could be looking at one of the worst travesties in post-season officiating. 

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By Justin Harvey
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3 years ago
Even though the challenge system is in effect there still seems to be issues with calls and reasons for non review. I would like to see an independent audit of all calls that would result in consequences. I would suggest this solution in all sports not just football. If an official has to poor a score in the audit they should be forced to look at a new profession. Thanks for pointing this out!
3 years ago

I couldn't agree more. In the NFL especially this has been a problem for a few years. This type of situation has been rectified already because this call has cost teams games in the past. So they just ignored their own recent changes to the rule. As C. Troy LaValla commented, they already established a rule that they can and will award possession if players play through the whistle and come up with the ball. The fact that this didn't occur last night almost cost the Broncos the game.
3 years ago
What is interesting about this particular call is that ed "hercules" blew the same call during a Chargers game. Rivers threw a backwards pass and he blew the whistle. The NFL made a rule change that offseason stating that the play CAN be reviewed and notified the players to play through the RECOVERY in a situation like this. Going back to review the play the ref can award the recovering team the ball at the place it was recovered but no additional yardage may be gained because the play has been whistled dead. So, in summary, the refs calling the Steelers Broncos game didn't follow their own rule that was recently changed so that this type of horrible call doesn't ruin somebodies season. Goodell needs to fine refs for blown calls like this instead of fining players with bad reputations for playing football like it was meant to be played. Good article dude.
3 years ago
I have watched every game with the NFL and Steelers for more than twenty years; and the refs are horrible. I think that this is an NFL that is wanting to attract even the most sideline of fan with fantastic finishes in every game. I have seen every Super Bowl ever played and wondered when Bart Starr won the MVP of the second Super Bowl as to what he was going to do with a second Cheverolet Impala. The referees used to be a sideline part of the game and would only call egregious fouls in the playoffs, now they seem to be the twelfth man and the true game managers. Harvey clearly didn't see the hold called on Justin Hartwig in the endzone to give Arizona a chance in 2008. Harvey is exactly the weekend warrior that the NFL has attracted. Perhaps he likes the referees in Championship Wrestling. They always have fantastic finishes there.
3 years ago

I did see that hold call, and I did question it. But there were a ton of calls in that Super Bowl that went the Steeler's way (as well as a couple important no-calls on the longest play in Super Bowl history). And holding is a huge debate in itself around the NFL. Nearly every play in the NFL could have some form of holding called, whether at the line or on the outside between corners and wide receivers. I have watched sports for my entire life, especially the NFL and MLB, and played them. I am well-aware of rules and their implications. I would appreciate if you wouldn't lob such childish insults. You cannot deny that something has got to change in this league. There are too many bad calls and unfortunately it seems the Steelers have received a lot of good fortune in recent memory. Last year the Packers had that Super Bowl in the bag, completely outmatching the Steelers in every facet, only to get few bogus penalties in the third quarter leading to a Steeler comeback. Forgive me for noticing these things and just trying to report to people that we should take a closer look and make sure that the league is giving all 32 teams an equal shot in every game for a complete 60:00 minutes.
3 years ago

Oh yeah, and how about the infamous Miami Dolphins home game ruined by a Roethlisberger fumble that was clearly recovered by the Dolphins. I mean how many times is this going to happen? They basically handed Pittsburgh the TD.
3 years ago
I am tired of seeing games come down to the call. Why don't they just let the players play?
3 years ago

Yeah it is getting pretty bad.
3 years ago
Yea that was a terrible call, but there were a lot of bad calls in that game. James Harrison's hit on Tebow wasn't roughing the passer and there was a missed facemask on Tebow later in the game. Also, it seemed like Denver was doing a lot of holding and nothing was called ever.

It was just a poorly officiated game by Ron Winters' (I think that's his name) group. I would say he's my least favorite ref. Him and his crew are awful.
3 years ago
Only thing I'm looking for is consistency. A penalty is a penalty, no matter who it's on/for/against.

I do some umpiring myself, so I am usually pretty easy on officials, but really... how do you miss a facemask or call unnecessary roughness, but let it go later.

Not only the NFL but the NHL as well are also confused on their own rules and keep changing them to keep people happy. NOT WORKING
3 years ago
I did umpiring myself in baseball too, so that changed my perspective in terms of when I played. But these guys are professionals. I agree with Cooper that the NFL and NHL don't even know their own rules.

And Justin, here's a reason I'd say the NFL doesn't favor the Steelers. If the NFL favors any team in terms of officiating, then it's definitely the Patriots. Brady always gets calls.

Like any team, Pittsburgh has gotten breaks, but Harrison is a huge target for roughing and now this missed call:

The Steelers aren't the NFL's darling team.
3 years ago

Definitely get a lot more calls when it comes to playing teams in the playoffs though. There are so many examples that it is pretty scary. I would agree Brady gets a lot of calls. But against Seattle, Arizona, and even Green Bay in last year's Super Bowl, this team got ample calls to at least keep them in it. I think the NFL just wants close games, no matter what teams are playing.
3 years ago

I can agree to the NFL wants close games. The NHL does the same thing.

In '05 when the Steelers were killing heavily favored Indy, the refs took away Polamalu's interception letting Indy back in it. So, I would agree, they do this with all games.
3 years ago
An audit of the referees would definitely help to statistically study how many blown calls there are and to see if there is any team that seems to be heavy on the benefit of these blown calls. It seems they are in all sports, and seem to favor specific geographical locations. Another great article.
3 years ago
Yea did anyone watch the Lions Saints game last week? That blown fumble call. Pathetic. What's more pathetic is that the Saints Oline will hold all game long and not get one call against the supposedly "dirty" Lions Dline. Its clear the NFL wants Packers Saints to get the best ratings. We need to go to a college review system. That sure seems to get the job done, and quick too.

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