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The time has come for Walt Coleman to call a Raiders game

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Commentary by Mark Schultz

The NFL needs to stop worrying about reputation and P.R. and assign its officials without past games in mind. Specifically, the NFL needs to have referee Walt Coleman call an Oakland Raiders game.

Coleman’s last Raiders game was January 19, 2002, a divisional playoff in New England against the Patriots. In that  game, Coleman properly enforced a very unpopular rule. And by the end of the day, all football fans were aware of The Tuck Rule. Coleman changed a Tom Brady fumble to an incomplete pass, keeping the Patriots alive (video). The Patriots beat the Raiders in overtime, and the outrage began.

Back in Oakland, Raiders’ fans, owners, coaches and players blamed Coleman for their defeat. Since then, Walt Coleman has not worked a Raiders game.

I can understand the NFL keeping officials away from a team for a year or so to let the team and fans cool off, but the NFL permanently scratching officials from a team does not make sense.

NFL has a history of keeping officials away from teams

Coleman is not the first NFL official kept away from a certain team after a controversial call (correct or incorrect).

Ed Hochuli made an error early in the 2008 season that cost the San Diego Chargers a victory against the Denver Broncos. He called a Broncos fumble and Chargers recovery an incomplete pass. He next worked a Chargers game in 2011.

After Super Bowl XL, the Seattle Seahawks and their fans complained about referee Bill Leavy’s crew. Leavy later admitted that he made mistakes in the The Big Game and felt bad about his performance. Leavy eventually officiated Seahawks games again  after a five-year hiatus.  

In 1978 referee Jerry Marbreit made a very controversial call against the San Diego Chargers in The Holy Roller game (video). I don’t remember if Markbreit took a hiatus from calling Chargers games, but the NFL let him call Super Bowl XXIX, when the Chargers played the San Francisco 49ers.

Until the Coleman/Raiders scratch, the most famous referee scratch was Ben Dreith. In the 1976 AFC Divisional Playoffs, Dreith officiated the Raiders (boy, they’re in a lot of these games!) and Patriots. In the waning moments Dreith called a controversial roughing the passer on the Patriots’ “Sugar Bear” Hamilton (video). The call kept the Raiders drive alive to beat the Patriots. Dreith officiated in the NFL until 1990, but he never called another Patriots game.

With Leavy, Dreith, Hochuli and Markbreit, the calls were either incorrect or 50-50.

But, Coleman’s call was correct!

No other pro officials get scratched

The NBA, NHL and MLB do not scratch officials after a controversial call.

Hugh Hollins made a call in the 1994 NBA playoffs against the Chicago Bulls that enraged The Windy City. But, Hollins worked Bulls home games the very next year.

NHL linesman Leon Stickle admitted making a bad offside non-call against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6. The New York Islanders clinched the series in that game. Stickle was back in Philadelphia calling Flyers games next year.

Philadelphia Phillies fans still think umpire Bruce Froemming blew a call in Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Froemming ruled Manny Mota of the Dodgers safe on a close play at first (video). If he called Mota out the Phillies would have won and taken the series lead. The Dodgers rallied to take the lead a few batters later. The Dodgers won Game 3 and they clinched the series in Game 4. Bruce Froemming was back in the City of Brotherly Love the very next year calling games.

Safety worry work-around

The NFL may not want Coleman officiating games in Oakland due to safety concerns. The Raiders fans are … exuberant.    

But, the Raiders play 31 other teams and Coleman could always call a Raiders road game. If the NFL doesn’t want him to work an AFC rivalry game, then put him on a non-conference road game — like this year’s Raiders-at-Eagles contest.  

The NFL keeping Coleman off Raiders games for 16 years looks like the NFL is trying to “protect” Coleman from something, or they fear P.R. issues.  

Walt Coleman is a 29-year veteran who has stood at the 50-yard line for many years while thousands have howled for his head. He is unflappable, like all his other brother and sister zebras.

The NFL needs to show confidence in their officials and show fans, media, players and owners it won’t be swayed in making assignments.

Jon Gruden is in the TV booth. Al Davis is not with us any more. Every player from The Tuck Rule game except Sebastian Janikowski is either retired or not on the Raiders. Sixteen years is enough of a cooling off period.

Give Walt Coleman a Raiders game.

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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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5 thoughts on “The time has come for Walt Coleman to call a Raiders game

  1. Bill Leave felt bad after making mistakes in the XL super bowl that cost Seattle the game. I’M HOME the NFL wanted the Stealers to win and they did. Referees can be sorry all they want but that does nothing for the teams they screw. A huge number are bias in one way or another and will call the game in a one sided manner, look at what the Packers O Line gets away with every game. I hope Bill Leave was able to make it into the WWE where his sadness and mistakes could be put to good use. Feeling bad for making multiple mistakes in a game does not cut it. Only that matters is Referee competence and calling the game fairly Bill Leave failed in both according to his own wourds.

  2. It makes no sense that Coleman is kept away from Raiders games because of his “controversial” call; if they applied that rule to every team for which he’s blown a key call, he’d only be able to officiate for a couple of teams!

    More likely, the NFL knows, as do a good number of professional gamblers, that Coleman is, or at least was, the Tim Donaghy of football. First off, the “Tuck Rule” was NOT correctly called by Coleman. He simply made up a convoluted interpretation of the rule. He’s similarly made up rules to hand wins to San Francisco, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Green Bay — and that’s just off the top of my head. He is not a homer, because he has taken wins away from both Pittsburgh and New England, then handed them wins other times. Clearly he is throwing games either because he’s betting on them, or more likely at the direction of the mob.

    The fact that the betting lines tend to shift as soon as it’s known what game he’s covering is the worst-kept secret in Vegas.

    So, not only should he not officiate another Raiders game, he should not officiate another NFL game. Period.

  3. Good job Bookmaker. When is this site going to stop being an appologist for incompetent, inconsistency and biased officiating and really do a good and worthwhile job of commenting on and analyzing referee performance as it advertises it is supposed to be doing. I come here hoping to find true analysis and commentary and all I find is a site that is blind to the incredibly poor job of refereeing we witness in every NFL game.

  4. [Received via e-mail -FZ]

    Ernest Hayfield

    Dear Football Zebras:

    I recently read the article written by Mark Schultz, dated December 5th, 2017, “The time has come for Walt Coleman to call a Raiders game.” It makes me quite angry to see that Walt Coleman is even allowed to work NFL games at all. I think it’s long overdue that Mr. Coleman retires from his position as referee. It was his terrible call – or lack of a call rather – that cost the Minnesota Vikings the 1998 NFC Championship in their game against the Atlanta Falcons on January 17, 1999.

    In the fourth quarter of that game, with 3:43 remaining in the 4th quarter, Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Reeves called a Time Out with the Vikings possessing the ball on the Falcons 28-and-a-half yard line, 3rd down and 1 yard to go. Coming out of the Time Out, the Vikings were set up with Randy Moss lined up on the right side. The Falcons CB on that side was not ready, and there was also no safety help on that side to help defend Randy Moss. The panicked cornerback signaled for a Time Out, which of course the Falcons were not permitted to call, having just called one before that play. So Dan Reeves RAN ON TO THE FIELD OF PLAY SIGNALLING FOR A TIME OUT. The officials blew their whistles, preventing the Vikings from snapping the ball and throwing to what would have been a wide open Randy Moss. The officials conferred for a moment or two. Finally Walt Coleman turned on his mike and said that the Falcons “…can’t call 2 consecutive time outs. 3rd down.”

    NO MR. COLEMAN IT’S NOT THIRD DOWN. Dan Reeves should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for running onto the field calling for a second consecutive time out on the same play! That’s a first down, Walt Coleman, and the ball should have been moved half the distance to the goal line. (I wonder if any of the officials, when they conferred with Walt Coleman before he made the announcement, mentioned that Reeves should be penalized for the infraction he committed.) John Madden, calling the game for the Fox Network, commented that Reeves should have been called for it.

    With the ball now between the 14 and 15 yard lines, and 1st down and 10, the Vikings likely would have either scored a touchdown or had a field goal attempt shorter than the 39-yard attempt that Gary Anderson missed on that drive.

    What were the effects of Walt Coleman’s ineptitude? Well, let’s see:

    Dan Reeves prevented the Vikings from snapping the ball when the rules of the game prohibited him from doing so.
    Dan Reeves wasn’t charged a time out, of course, even though he received the benefit of a time out when he ran onto the field of play.
    Dan Reeves wasn’t called for unsportsmanlike conduct even though the rules call for a 15 yard penalty in that case.
    The Falcons effectively had 4 time outs in the second half of that game. They used them all.
    The Vikings then had 3rd down and 1 at the Falcons 28 1/2 yard line, rather than 1st down and 10 inside the 15 yard line, after Walt Coleman’s ridiculous lack of knowledge of the rules.

    Please bear in mind that on December 2, 2007, in a game between Buffalo and Washington, with his team leading by just two points, Washington Head Coach Joe Gibbs tried to “ice” Bills kicker Rian Lindell prior to a game-ending 51-yard Field Goal attempt. Coach Gibbs forgot that he had already called a Time Out prior to that play. When Gibbs called for the second consecutive Time Out, the yellow flag flew. Good thing Tony Corrente was the referee. He knew the rules of the game. Coach Gibbs was penalized, the ball moved 15 yards, and Rian Lindell successfully kicked a 36-yard Field Goal. The Bills won the game, 17-16.

    I was a little ill seeing Walt Coleman on the field working the Bengals at Vikings game a few weeks ago. I pray that he is not scheduled to work any Vikings games during this upcoming and very important post-season.


    Ernest Hayfield

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