A topic that has been discussed at great length each and every season in the NFL is the officiating. From holding calls to reviews, some fan base seems to be in an uproar every week, and usually it’s justified. The fact of the matter is pretty simple: officials are inconsistent and seemingly guessing on some calls out there.
At the beginning of the season, fans heard from officiating analysts such as Gene Steratore and Mike Pereira about the “emphasis” on holding penalties. In the offseason, the league made pass interference a challengeable play, which caused all sorts of speculation that games would be slowed down, big plays would be overturned; the list goes on. To this point, that has not been the case. In fact, it has caused a completely different problem, which we will hit on later.
Since this is a Ravens site, I am going to keep this strictly to the Baltimore Ravens. The officiating has once again increased their flag throwing, jumping from an average of around eight flags per team per game, up to nine. This is just a ludicrous number, resulting in longer and longer games.
We have all heard the old adage, and it rings true, that you could call holding on just about every single play. This is absolutely the case, if you break it down to its very definition. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3, the Ravens had a big run by Gus Edwards called back by a hold on Willie Snead. Now, by definition, this was holding. However, when you look around the league, and look at plays where holding is not called, this is one that should have been let go. That did not happen, and the refs could not help themselves but to pull the flag from their pocket. This is not exclusive to the Ravens; this happens each and every week. This is all because, for some reason, the league decided to emphasize holding. Who asked for this? Certainly not fans! Coaches? Doubtful.
The “emphasizing of penalties” is not a new thing around this league. Every single season, the league wants to key in on certain penalties in an effort to crack down on them. Usually, it becomes an absolute disaster, and the league has to tell their officials to de-emphasize it.
Why does a penalty need to be emphasized more than any other penalty? Isn’t that the point of making it a penalty, so that the officials look for it each play and call it if necessary?
Now, they throw in the review of pass interference, something this writer felt was a positive change for the league. No challenges were added for the coaches, it is a play that can easily be reviewed, and games have been swayed on missed calls in the past. This was a change that could – we thought – help to alleviate some of these issues. Only, it hasn’t solved any issues; it has only created more.
Turn to Week 5 when the Ravens took on the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Mark Andrews was clearly interfered with, the ball pops up in the air and is intercepted. As Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed out, this was a turnover, so it should be automatically reviewed. So the question becomes, is pass interference going to be looked at on these automatic reviews, or just the interception itself? If it is just the interception, can the coach throw his challenge flag on this? If he cannot throw his challenge flag, why don’t they look for the pass interference?
These are just a few of the questions that are being asked, and need serious clarity.
Then we turn to how effective the reviews actually are. It has been said that the pass interference needs to be clear and conclusive to warrant being overturned via review. Take the case of Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Green Bay Packers. Marquez Valdez-Scantling was clearly pushed before the arrival of the football on a certain play. It wasn’t even close, but upon review, the ruling on the field stood that there was no pass interference.
If this one doesn’t get overturned, nothing will. If they cannot get together and define what is clear and conclusive evidence, than they need to just get rid of the rule altogether.
Refereeing in the NFL has seemingly become more of a guessing game rather than an organized crew with a set of guidelines. They emphasize some rules, others not so much. Some small grabs are holds, egregious yanks of the jersey are let go. Officiating is extremely subjective and admittedly, a hard job. But these are crews paid to get these decisions right more times than not.
At some point, there needs to be some accountability.
Officiating in the NFL has become an unmitigated disaster, and it is taking over games and making them harder to watch.
If Roger Goodell and Al Riveron don’t get their arms around this, it could become a bigger problem than they would like.
(ed note: this article was originally incorrectly attributed to Derek Arnold. We regret the error.)