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ControversyAfter further review, LJ blew inadvertent whistle, but admitted it to offended coach

After further review, LJ blew inadvertent whistle, but admitted it to offended coach

We are examining the video of the inadvertent whistle from the Raiders-Bengals game, and have confirmed that the line judge was responsible for terminating the play. Because the highlight video on NFL.com does not clearly illustrate the inadvertent whistle, we have the video the help of friend of the site, Timothy Burke of Mocksession (@bubbaprog), and we post it here for critical review:

Get the Flash Player to see this video (or , if you are seeing this message, we did something wrong. Sorry.)



The ball is clearly loose at the time of the whistle, as line judge Julian Mapp throws his blue beanbag to mark the fumble. From the high shot from the Raiders end zone, Mapp is then seen at the top of the frame bringing his left hand up and blowing his finger whistle to call the play dead. He anticipated the ball landing out of bounds and did not expect the ball to be batted back in bounds. (By the way, batting the ball in this case is not a penalty.)

As we pointed out earlier, it should have been ruled an incomplete pass, because Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu did not hold the ball long enough after his second foot came down to complete the process of the catch. This was reviewable, but in all the chaos and confusion of the previous play, it is no wonder why it wasn’t challenged by the Raiders. (Since there was technically no turnover, there is no automatic review by the replay official.)

Some of the comments I received suggested that the whistle means fumble out of bounds, so that call should stand. However, the whistle is a signal, not a ruling. At the time of the whistle, the ball was loose, and the ruling must reflect that. The term inadvertent does not only encompass an accidental exhale into the whistle, but any time that a whistle blows during a live ball.

You can see the frustration in referee Alberto Riveron’s face as he tries to definitively determine where the ball was and whether the Raiders had possession of the ball. Mapp was tasked with the duty to admit his mistake to Raiders coach Mike Allen and explain that there is no touchdown and the Bengals get to re-do third down. Allen is seen clearly yelling “that’s bullshit” to Mapp, and he is correct, which is why it is one of the worst mistakes an official can make.

As painful as the error was, Mapp owned up to it and courageously confronted the offended coach. He may have a difficult time getting a playoff assignment, but at least he did not cover it up.

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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5 thoughts on “After further review, LJ blew inadvertent whistle, but admitted it to offended coach

  1. Yeah, I don’t see any way Mapp will be working a playoff game this year. Remember, he was also the covering official for the Trindon Holiday “touchdown” in Carolina. Even though I mostly blame Bob Boylston for not reviewing that play, Mapp will get the downgrade as it was his call. That is two significant downgrades I am counting for Mapp making it very unlikely he will work the playoffs even if his crew is top 8, which I doubt they will be given their recent performances.

  2. I’d like to see your rationale for the incomplete pass. “The process” only comes into play when the receiver is going to the ground. He goes to the ground in a second action. All you need is two feet and a football move, which he has. It’s not two feet THEN a football move. It’s two feet AND.

    Aside from that argument, at least everyone owned up to everything and they got the call “right” based on the outcome of the play. I’ve done something similar, and yes, it’s time to crawl into a hole and pretend you don’t exist for about 3 hours.

  3. The process of the catch has an added element when a player is going to the ground, a call that has been covered in great detail here. If a player is not going to the ground, the process is (1) control of the ball, (2) two feet down in bounds, (3) the ability to make a football move. It must happen in that order.

    It’s not correct that the “football move” (technically, “an act common to the game”) comes simultaneous to or before step 2.

    In review, the best determination (by the officiating department’s own enforcement guidelines) is to watch the catch at full speed. If there is no recognizable amount of time between the second foot coming down and the loss of the ball, then the ruling is incomplete pass. They call this a “bang-bang” call: if the foot and the ball popping out are in such quick sequence that they appear to be at the same time, then there is not enough time for step 3.

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