FanHouse's resident referee will chime in weekly with thoughts on major topics relating to officiating. We call it The Zebra Report. Matt Snyder is a high school official with eight years experience. While this is like a third-year resident critiquing the work of a world-renowned surgeon, it's still better than someone who has never worn the stripes.
I thought it was a relatively slow weekend when it came to officiating controversies, relative the usual list of twenty calls where everyone thought their favorite team got "screwed." Sure, the Patriots are whining -- which is a shocker -- and Matt Schaub was hit low twice by Jared Allen. Overall, though, things went smoothly. Let's just hit a few things here:
1. Brandon Marshall hit with an offensive pass interference call after a 77 yard would-be-touchdown catch (pictured above right). For guidance here, check out "incident two" from this past Zebra Report. I gave a run down of the philosophies and principles involved in calling pass interference. It should be noted that I said those were for DPI. Offensive players are held to the same standard, as long as both players are playing the ball, because both sides have an equal right to the football.
If Marshall extended his arm and created separation, which enabled him to make the catch, this is automatically OPI. An advantage was gained. Marshall had an issue with the call, as he expressed his frustration after the game:
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"There was definitely some contact, but this type of game, this type of environment, you've got to let us play," Marshall said. "It's a physical game."
True, football is a physical game, but an unfair advantage gained due to a rule violation is a penalty, regardless of adverse affects the "type of game" and "type of environment" have on the actual rules. I'm unaware of how much the rules actually change in Broncos/Dolphins games in early November, so maybe Brandon is smarter than me.
Also of note, the always manly Jay Cutler threw his towel in the direction of the penalizing official in anger, when said official had his back turned. Bravo, Jay. Always mature on the field.
2. The aforementioned low hits on Schaub. Stephanie Stradley has already posted video on this, along with any rules we could find (by the way, I was told there is an NFL rulebook available to buy here, but it's currently out of stock and it was only the '06 version anyway. Damn the luck ... hopefully I'll have one by next year to be more precise with my rules assessments.).
3. More complaints nation-wide about roughing calls, late hits, unnecessary roughness, etc. This past week I discussed the issue with a source. I was informed that the NFL is gravely concerned about safety in the sport, and is taking drastic measures to crack-down on the violent hits. We already knew this, but what I found that was more interesting is that a few officials have been severely downgraded for not calling unnecessary roughness in games earlier this season. It would seem that Roger Goodell and the front office personnel are going to make the officials call almost anything questionable. Please direct any complaints or anger you might have in the proper direction. You don't complain to a bartender about the price of a beer. Go to the general manager of the bar.
4. Devin Hester is horse-collared without a penalty call ... oh wait, they did call it. Anyone who saw the play knows it was absolutely the correct call. I just wanted to take the time to visit one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to people whining about the officials. The late flag. Everyone hates it. I don't know why it makes people so furious. When you officiate a game, your reflexes are very important, but the most important thing is getting a call correct. I've grabbed for my flag and missed it before (my hands were so sweaty they slipped off of it as I swiped quickly), does that mean when I went back and threw it -- making it "late" -- that I made a bad call? Of course not. Sometimes you even think more about the play to make sure you got it right.
For example, on holding calls, we are taught to say to ourselves, "he's holding him," three times before you throw it. If, before you finish, the player releases the other, you don't have a foul. This is assuming, of course, that he didn't tackle him or anything blatant like that. I'm just talking arms around the shoulder or jersey grabbing type things. What ends up happening on these situations, though, is that while you are watching, twenty guys on the sidelines start screaming, "HOLDING!!!!" Then you throw the flag. Now the other side thinks you are in their proverbial hip pocket. This is not the case at all. Sometimes waiting to ensure the proper call is the best thing to do for the play. You don't want a bunch of flag-throwing maniacs out there without regard for doing the job properly. Gimme the patient and precise.
A final note: After the officials correctly called the penalty, awful Fox color commentator Tim Ryan said, "I hope they didn't watch the replay on the jumbotron and then make the call." Um, what? You think the officials, instead of doing the thirty-five things they have to do after a change of possession were standing around watching the stadium replay and then launched a flag when they saw what happened? That's actually a hilarious thought.
That's all I've got for this week. I'll be back next week. As always, if you want a rule or play reviewed (even if it's a local 8th grade game), you may submit one to our mailbox.