With just one more game left this season, here are five officiating observations I noticed in the last six months of football.
Too many ejections
This year, NFL officials gave the hook to 20 players for fighting, a flagrant personal foul or for contact against an official. This is not because officials are being grouchy ogres. Players are simply losing control of themselves and deciding to settle things with their fists or bumping or shoving officials during an altercation. Plain and simple, players need to get themselves under control and play with more sportsmanship.
Most disappointing call: Gronk not ejected
While 20 ejections are too many for a season, it should have been 21. Patriots tight end Rob Growkowski was suspended one game for a Week 13 flagrant hit on the Bills Tre’Davious White. The officials flagged Gronkowski but did not eject him. White left the game and went into concussion protocol. Gronkowski’s act was flagrant and premeditated. The Patriots should have lost his services for the rest of the game. While I do not advocate automatic ejections for personal fouls at the NFL level, the officials should feel empowered to take the step to eject players for flagrant hits.
Biggest thing to fix for next year: the catch rule
Instant replay technology has caught up with NFL rules. High definition technology can show and ball moving fractions of an inch, and by rule, that opens the door for an incomplete pass while under replay. Is the NFL officiating office over-officiating the replay and calling the letter of the rule when reviewing a play? Do the rules need to allow Al Riveron and company a little leeway? This is a concern at the highest levels of the NFL, so expect some rule changes this spring.
Most fun game to watch: Colts at Bills, Week 14
While it might not have been fun to play in or call, it was fun watching Brad Allen’s crew, the Bills and the Colts fight the elements in a Week 14 tilt in Buffalo (video). Nothing like some heavy snow to force the teams to adjust. The officials have to adjust too. While it’s not fun every week, it is interesting to see the pros play a kids game in elements kids love.
Call of the year: “I’ll tell you guys, now!”
While it is not the NFL, I have to give the call of the year to Big 10 referee and NFL development program official Don Willard. In an early season game, Willard’s crew called an illegal substitution foul on Michigan. Willard faced the wrong way when announcing the penalty. Mistakes happen. What made this a great call was that Willard was so at ease and cool with his mistake. I’ll just let the tweet below explain.
A college officiating honorable mention belongs to the officiating supervisors mandating officials call head coaches for unsportsmanlike conduct if they step foot onto the field to argue a call — and then backed their officials. Miraculously, coach behavior improved this year.
This just scratches the surface of the interesting, great and controversial calls this year. Here’s hoping the last game of the season features nothing but great calls.