NFL Playoffs Are Broken Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Lombardi's Way NFL Playoffs Are Broken

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Bad officiating aside, you really do have to admire or at least respect the dynasty that is the New England Patriots. In an age when league parity is not just the wish of a former commissioner (Pete Rozelle) but its absolute lifeblood, the success story of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady is mind-blowing.

• 16 Division Championships
• 13 AFC Championship Appearances
• 9 Super Bowl Appearances
• 5 Rings (and counting?)

But it’s difficult not to ignore officiating that too often is the lead story in an important game. In the fourth quarter of Sunday’s AFCC Game, it felt as if momentum completely shifted in the favor of the Chiefs when Julian Edelman muffed a punt that was recovered by Gehrig Dieter. And that was the ruling on the field. No evidence provided to the viewing audience was convincing enough to overturn the call on the field. NONE!

Yet it was.

NFL Playoffs

Fast forward to the 7:10 mark of the fourth quarter and the Patriots faced a 2nd-and-7 from their own 28. Brady’s pass to Edelman fell incomplete BUT… Chris Jones was called for a phantom roughing penalty on Brady to give the Patriots another 15 yards and first down. It was a classic case of an official calling something he didn’t really see, only anticipated. And given the fact that all three other starting quarterbacks playing on Sunday had experienced hits to the noggin that went uncalled, this egregious call only served to feed the narrative that Brady is the league’s favored son.

NFL Playoffs

But favored son or not, the Patriots truly are a dynasty – a dynasty that almost didn’t happen…

During the 2000 NFL Draft when the Ravens were on the clock in the 3rd round with the 75th overall pick, they zeroed in on selecting a quarterback. Matt Cavanaugh, then the team’s offensive coordinator, lobbied for the kid from Michigan – young Tom Brady. Obviously, Cavanaugh didn’t get the support from the rest of the war room. Instead of Brady, the Ravens selected QB Chris Redman from Louisville.

The rest, as they say, is history.

But back to the officiating…

Many will debate that the calls and no-calls and overturned and non-overturned calls didn’t really make a difference in the outcome of the Patriots v. Chiefs game. But few will say the same about the Rams v. Chiefs.

With the score tied at 20 and the Saints facing 3rd-and-10 from the Rams 13, Drew Brees targeted Tommylee Lewis with a back-shoulder throw at the 5. Nikell Robey-Coleman defended on the play and was clearly guilty of pass interference. Well, it was clear to everyone watching except to those that mattered most – the men dressed in stripes.

Pool reporter: “What was the reason that there was no penalty flag called on the Drew Brees pass to Tommylee Lewis?”

Referee Bill Vinovich: “It was a judgment call by the covering official. I personally have not seen the play.”


Repairman Needed

The NFL needs to clean up a couple of things immediately – but they won’t. Their competition committee will convene at some upcoming league meetings and they’ll implement some meaningless tweaks to the game that will be no more than thinly-veiled lip service to promote the game’s safety.

Remember all of the helmet-to-helmet hoopla during the preseason? Then fast-forward to the overlooked helmet-to-helmet penalty on Nickell Robey-Coleman (two penalties on one play, both ignored during the game’s most crucial moment).

Why embarrass yourself but ignoring the obvious, staining the game and its results, when the technology is available in the palm of the NFL’s collective hand to get it right? Look, I get the game has too many stoppages and they’re trying to enhance the viewer’s experience. That’s fine for the regular season but in the postseason, you can’t let the results of the game to be scarred by poor officiating. That’s not fair to either team, their respective fans OR NFL fans in general.

Same goes for the overtime rules. Both postseason combatants deserve an opportunity to possess the football. Winning a coin flip should not provide such a decided advantage, particularly when the team losing the toss has to put its tired defense back out on the field for a second consecutive series.

This all falls under the category of common sense and if you disagree, I’ve got a pay phone and a Blockbuster membership card to sell you.

Super Bowl LIII

If there’s one small consolation prize that we can all glean from another Patriots Super Bowl win, is that it would be their 6th Lombardi. No longer would obnoxious Steelers’ fans be running around chanting “SIX”, currently the most Super Bowl titles in league history.

By the way, ever see Yankees fans walking around grunting “27”?

Here’s how the Odds Shark sees the next Super Bowl…

Football & Music

Ever see the movie “Eddie & The Cruisers”? Fun flick and worth your time. In the movie, two of the main characters, who happen to be collaborators and writing partners, talk about the blend of lyrics and a tune.

Words and music.

They go together.

Football and music go together as well and as part of an effort to support local musicians, we’ve developed Music Fanimal on our Here’s a sampling of one of our episodes from earlier this season. Please subscribe to our feeds on YouTube and iTunes.

Last Call

Tony Romo was outstanding during the AFC Championship. His energy is always off the charts and on Sunday his diagnosis of upcoming plays based upon formations Nostradamus-like. He’s now earned the nickname Romostradamus. Yet as much as I enjoy Romo, Jim Nantz just grinds my gears with his over-the-top support of the Patriots. For the record, Messrs. Belichick, Brady and Kraft were guests at Nantz’ wedding.

Poor Dee Ford. It’s going to be a long offseason for him. Lining up offsides cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl. It’s just that simple and unfortunately, that painful. If it makes you feel any better Chiefs and Saints fans, Ravens fans can relate thanks to Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff…It’s disheartening but hardly a surprise – NFL teams are interested in Kareem Hunt.

Hypocrisy in the NFL is alive and well.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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