Video: Watch the NFL kill its brand in one easy (mis-)step

posted at 8:41 am on September 25, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Generally speaking, I tend to give sports officials some leeway, perhaps especially in the NFL. The game is fast, it’s complicated, and only seven officials get to watch 22 players on a field that measures 120 yards long (with end zones) by 53 yards wide. Even with replay in the best of conditions, the most experienced officials will blow a call or two in a game. However, I’ve watched NFL games for more than 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like what took place in Seattle last night. I watched from midway through the third quarter to the jaw-dropping finale, and I’ve never seen a worse-called game in my life at any level of football competition. From phantom pass interference calls to egregious PI non-calls, a normal out-of-pocket hit on a QB that drew a roughing penalty that negated an interception, to this final play — where a defender intercepted a pass and landed with both feet in the end zone but the offensive receiver was awarded the TD because he had one hand on the ball — the replacement officials embarrassed the NFL and put a big, fat asterisk on the whole season:

What happened to the best brand in sports? Kevin Seifert rips the league for its labor strategy at ESPN:

Can we now, in unison and without debate, agree that the NFL’s plan to replace its locked-out officials has failed spectacularly and embarrassingly, undermining the credibility of the league and — after two months of nervous anticipation — directly impacting the outcome of a game?

That’s the only possible reaction after watching the final play of the Seattle Seahawks’ 14-12 victory Monday night over the Green Bay Packers. I guess you can debate all the calls and potential mistakes that happened earlier in the game, from wildly inconsistent pass interference judgments to a failure to remove a “K” ball from the field on the Packers’ failed two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. But there is no question that Monday night’s crew of replacement officials erred repeatedly on the play in question and then lost control of the teams in one of the most chaotic scenes in recent NFL history.

The NFL’s attempt to patch together a competent group of officials was destined to fail the moment that Division I college officials either declined or were prevented from joining the effort. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the NFL’s deep and nuanced rule book, not to mention the speed of the professional game, knew that recruiting low-level college officials, Arena League castoffs and Lingerie League part-timers was destined to fail at the highest level of the game.

That’s not to say that the officials on the field aren’t trying to do their best; they clearly are putting forth a valiant effort in each game. However, they don’t know the NFL rules, both in nuanced and in embarrassingly obvious ways. Last night, after the controversial TD call, the officials ran off the field — unaware that the NFL requires a conversion attempt for all TDs in regular time, regardless of whether the clock has expired or not. They aren’t qualified to call games at this level, and their experience at Division II and III has left them woefully unprepared for the speed of the professional game. Brit Hume put it best last night:

Whatever Roger Goodell thinks he’s doing with his lockout of the professional officials, that strategy is over. He gambled that anyone could call these games, and this weekend he lost. Not only did the officials change the outcome of this game, they probably did the same in Baltimore yesterday with a series of questionable penalty calls and almost certainly blowing the field goal call on the last play of that game as well. The NFL has a game this Thursday. Either they need to get the regular officials back on the field, or they need to start postponing these games until they do, because to saddle teams with regular-season records based on this officiating is a travesty, and it’s turning the NFL into a joke.

Note to Goodell: When you have a panel that consists of men who would normally be cheerleading the league — and whose livelihood depends on its success — go on national TV and talk about how the results lack any integrity whatsoever, you are in danger of killing your brand.

Update: The football field is 53 yards wide, not 17; was thinking 53 feet, for some reason. Thanks to Steve Eggleston for the correction.

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Bmore on September 25, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Dear Roger:

I dislike hypocrisy at any level. I really dislike hypocrisy when it is crammed down my throat as some form of moralism. So I’ll start by quoting . . . you:

“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised.” NFL Communications, March 21, 2012

If only your actions (and to be fair, those of the owners) followed your lofty (but highly hypocritical) words!

Let’s take some of your points one at a time:

Player Health and Safety – Let’s see . . . Week 3 we have a torn ear, a player whose neck as almost broken, and, I think every fan has seen some sort of late hit, spearing, or other potentially injurious acts go unpunished. Time. After Time. After Time.

Do you still want me to believe that your fining of coaches and players for being upset about clear rule violations is even remotely tied to the health and safey of players?

Integrity of the Game – “Roll tape . . ..” Today’s pages (everywhere) are filled with examples of the laughstock you are making the NLF into.

No one is above the game or the rules that govern it – Wow! Now I feel like you work for the White House, trying to blame a video for what everyone knows is a policy failure.

To talk about the rules, you first need people on the field that (a) know them, (b) can recognize the violation of them in real-time, (c) have the courage to enforce them, and (d) the integrity to reverse themselves when they are clearly wrong. You cannot talk about the integrity of the “rules” being enforced on the field when it’s clear to everyone that it’s not the rules, but your posturing and image that are being protected.

Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised – Nice words, Roger, when you think you’re preaching from the moral high ground, but they sort of make you out to be a hypocrite. You are preachy when you think you have a big stick and can act without opposition (sort of like China), but appear completely inept at dealing with people when they have the ability to say “No.”

Roger, please don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of unions (or zebras, for that matter). But in all candor, it’s it the NFL structure that forces the players and referees to collectively bargain?

So let me ask, do YOU have what it takes to lead? Or are you just another tailor-suited hypocrite whose words cannot be trusted.


EdmundBurke247 on September 25, 2012 at 5:31 PM

You know you turn to the NFL for clarity in life after dealing with the disease of politics and Trent Dilfer speaks in that second vid… at 1:47 on and it sounds like the frustration we face in this nation.
In fact I think you could just replace everytime he says “NFL” with “this nation” and its as poignant as anything that’s been said about this what’s going on now in this country.
Talk about a brand on the verge of death.

onomo on September 25, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Fish rots from the head down.

Goodell Must Go.

Christien on September 25, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Replacement refs doing the best they can. That’s the problem. Sort of like President Obama.

That’s gonna leave a mark.

Romney should make this his new campaign slogan.

talkingpoints on September 25, 2012 at 7:12 PM

Ok, if it were my play to call, I would say it was an interception, but realistically, what “lost” the game for Green Bay was their very, very poor offensive line play in the first half. How many sacks? Rodgers had to run for his life on every pass play. Was it ‘replacement’ offensive line players? Put some of the blame where it is due. Why was Green Bay in a position that one bad call cost them a win? I’ve seen bad calls every year, this one is no different.

Redteam on September 25, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Super Bowl. Steelers/Sehawks. “Best” Refs in the league. Final seconds, blatantly blown call, not reviewable, Hawks lose. It was such a bad call you didn’t need a slow motion shot to see it.

An argument CAN be made for simultaneous possession last night, the slow motion replay and multiple angles made it not a gimmee call.

Stuff happens, things don’t always go over well even with the “best” refs. And Seahawk fans no better than any others that sometimes, it seems like maybe the ref had money on the other team.

flyfishingdad on September 25, 2012 at 8:04 PM

one of the worst calls i’ve ever seen in a NFL game..these refs are terrible

sadsushi on September 25, 2012 at 8:27 PM

it’s all for nothing. Seattle won’t even make the playoffs.

The Notorious G.O.P on September 25, 2012 at 8:38 PM

Did you say that about Tagliabu after Super Bowl XL when the refs made a joke out of the game?

Voter from WA State on September 25, 2012 at 7:08 PM

You’re quite butt-hurt about superbowl XL…. you bring it it up every other post. At the same time your telling me to just live with the call from last night and move on. You’re saying that we should have been able to overcome any percived bad reffing by playing through adversity — but then you make excuses for your SB loss.

You’re a hipocrite.

If your team is “that” good we’ll see you later in the playoffs.

We’ll take the ball and were gonna score.

Green_Bay_Packers on September 25, 2012 at 8:54 PM

Green_Bay_Packers on September 25, 2012 at 4:14 PM

By the way, we Seahawk fans fully realize that if the shoe was on the other foot no one would be talking about it. It would be all about the dramatic win by GB. We have been down this road more than once.

Voter from WA State on September 25, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Mike McCarthy had enought class not to comment on the refs. He didn’t disparage the Seahawks.

Russel Wilson and his punk Coach were giving an interview after the game talking like they had won the superbowl. They got a gift. They got LUCKY. Even if you beleive that it was a touchdown, you won on a hail mary as time ran out. Not a win I’d be bragging about.

It’s not like you beat us by 35… If you want to turn into the Atlana Falcons 2010 be my guest.

If the Packers had barely won on a last second heave we’d at least have the class to admit that we got lucky.

Good luck beating the Cardinals and the 49ers. With a QB that threw 2 picks and barely any yardage last night you’ll need it.

Green_Bay_Packers on September 25, 2012 at 9:04 PM

Voter from WA State on September 25, 2012 at 7:08 PM

I didn’t, though I was cheering for the Hawks and felt they got screwed on those calls.

Goodell’s GOTTA GEAUX.

Christien on September 25, 2012 at 9:31 PM

Voter from WA State on September 25, 2012 at 7:08 PM

You’ll be interested in this. Another look from a different angle in super slow-mo.

diogenes on September 25, 2012 at 10:31 PM

HA is slow tonight. Posts are taking a long time to appear.

diogenes on September 25, 2012 at 11:03 PM

New name for the Packers-The Green Bay Vintage Whines!!

MaiDee on September 25, 2012 at 11:45 PM


YEAH!!!! – GO SEATTLE!!!!!



There were 1985 words spoken at today’s White House Press Briefing. Of those words – there was a total of 7 questions that were NOT “Football-Related”

We have people like Allahpundit to Thank for HELPING keep the White House WALL OF DISTRACTION UP instead of Talking about HOW the Mid East is engulfed in Obama-Ignited FLAMES today!

williamg on September 25, 2012 at 11:48 PM

OH – AND Ed……..

williamg on September 25, 2012 at 11:49 PM

As a Bear fan, I have zero sympathy for Green Bay on any given week. But they got cheated out of a win last night, and that’s just wrong.

As for Seattle, rarely have I witnessed a sports franchise with as little integrity as these losers. Take the gift, sure. You take what calls you can get. But whiny little b1tch Pete Carroll was a crook when he jerked off college kids, and he’s become the biggest pansy in the NFL, as his post-game-interview-denial-insanity demonstrated.

He is posing as only the second person in America who believes that was a touchdown. And I say posing because even Carroll isn’t that stupid.

Jaibones on September 26, 2012 at 12:21 AM

By the way, we Seahawk fans fully realize that if the shoe was on the other foot no one would be talking about it. It would be all about the dramatic win by GB. We have been down this road more than once.

Voter from WA State on September 25, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Congrats, loser. You are one of the now three people in America unable to acknowledge one of the worst calls in American sports history.

Jaibones on September 26, 2012 at 12:24 AM

The call, in regards to the catch, was absolutely correct.

In the process of making a catch if a player goes to the ground they are not considered to have caught the ball until they come to a stop having maintained possession. In this case they certainly both went to the ground so no possession of the ball is fully established until they are on the ground. The second point is that you don’t have to have 2 hands on the ball to have “possession”, this is clear from the myriad of one handed grabs made throughout the league each year. So Jennings had solid possession and Tate had poor possession, but they both had possession. The rules clearly state simultaneous possession results in the offense being awarded the reception. The result is a TD for Seattle.

The non-call, in regards to the terribly blatant offensive pass interference, was absolutely incorrect.

Pure and simple, this has to be called in the NFL. The result if called is game over, GB wins.

As for complaints about other pass interference calls throughout the game….Lets just say both teams were the beneficiaries of some pretty thin calls throughout the game. Green Bay had at least 2 scoring drives, combining for 10 points total, sustained on at least one 3rd down each, by poor calls. So to complain about the same happening to Seattle, and only about it having happened for Seattle, is to me hypocritical. The final play of the game has more apparent connection to the outcome of the game, but those other points scored as a result of bad calls have equal importance.

Bottom line:
1)Replacement refs are not getting the job done
2)It was a TD catch.
3)The TD catch should have been called back on an Offensive Pass Interference call.
4)Contrary to popular belief, this is all fantastic for the NFL. As long as the old refs return before the playoffs fans will stay, and the NFL will come out WAY ahead.

Sqrl on September 26, 2012 at 12:27 AM

And what in the world does that matter today? NONE!

You can complain all you want. Believe me . . . we have been the recipient of a ton of bad calls . . . especially in the last 10 years. WE ARE the reason there is instant replay.

Get over it. Beat the Saints. You still have more than enough time to make up for the bad call. And there were too many bad calls on each side.

And by the way, we had one chance for a SB ring only the refs took that away from us. I hope that you don’t have that short of a memory.

Voter from WA State on September 25, 2012 at 5:22 PM

We owe the Pack for the first game of last season, which also was one of the best games played in the NFL all last season.

1-2 Pack + 0-3 Saints is going to be an epic clash. Tape it – likely to be an NFL classic.

Saints will take it in OT.

cane_loader on September 26, 2012 at 4:17 AM

Crap, my quoting skills suck this morning.

cane_loader on September 26, 2012 at 4:18 AM


Whadda know? I saw film that showed that GB should have lost the SB to Pittsburgh. Bad calls.

Seattle thinks they were cheated in the SB.

I wrote earlier that I have officiated and it was a catch.

Here is film:

I stole this from another poster. Give them credit. I’m honorable.

Oh yea, were any of you experts there?

That is what I thought.

IlikedAUH2O on September 26, 2012 at 6:00 AM

cane_loader on September 26, 2012 at 4:17 AM
WE ARE the reason there is instant replay.

Wow. YOU are the 79 Houston Oilers?

IlikedAUH2O on September 26, 2012 at 6:33 AM

IlikedAUH2O on September 26, 2012 at 6:00 AM

This sheds a different light on things. From this angle it appears to be a catch.
This now also calls into question the reporting. Was the delay in showing this by ESPN purposeful? (An Andrea Mitchell moment if you will)

diogenes on September 26, 2012 at 9:33 AM

Remember “never let a crisis go to waste”.
I’ll call it now.
BHO will “come to the rescue” to save the “National Pastime” from the rich NFL owners.

diogenes on September 26, 2012 at 10:11 AM

Since I got emails:

I was never CLOSE to being a NFL official!

And may God have mercy on them.

IlikedAUH2O on September 26, 2012 at 12:48 PM