Football Zebras
CommentaryNFL must start suspending players and coaches for postgame confrontations with officials

NFL must start suspending players and coaches for postgame confrontations with officials

Commentary by Mark Schultz

The current NFL rule/fine structure that punishes players and coaches from accosting officials do nothing, and it is time for the NFL to start suspending players and coaches who make it a point to berate officials after the game.

There were two high-profile incidents this weekend where players made it a point to seek out and berate officials after the clock hit zero. The first one was the Buffalo Bills Jerry Hughes going after official Roy Ellison in the tunnel after the game.

Another happened this weekend as Taylor Lewan of the Tennessee Titans made it a point to berate Jerome Boger’s crew as they were running off the field

There could be extenuating circumstances surrounding the Hughes incident and Ellison is on administrative leave while the NFL continues it’s investigation.

Extenuating circumstances or not, the NFL must crack down on postgame abuse of officials.

Why do players wait until after the game to accost the officials? Simple:

  • They do not risk costing their team a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty
  • The officials can’t eject them
  • The fine structure is no deterrent

For many NFL players, a five, 10 or 25-thousand dollar fine does not impact their economic life. Some players set aside a part of their salary to pay NFL fines. The fact that the game is over allows them to get a shot at the officials without fear of harming their team. The fine is insignificant to them.

Fans and media seem to cheer this on. They view this behavior as the players sticking up for themselves or giving the officials some (in their eyes) well-deserved abuse.

I am well-aware that football is an emotional game and officials allow coaches and players the opportunity to vent, within the rules, during the game. That is proper. But, players and coaches must not get in unsportsmanlike shots at officials after time expires.

Officials are a representative of the NFL commissioner. Players must show respect for the position and the person. It is not hyperbole to say if the official-player, official-coach relationship erodes into one of disrespect and disdain, the game will unravel and chaos ensues. Officials must also show respect to the game participants and the NFL has given out consequences when they don’t.

So, what is the only way the NFL can punish unsporting acts against officials after the game?

The NFL must suspend the player for the next game. If a player knows the NFL will suspend them for postgame verbal abuse of officials, the player won’t risk harming their team for the next game. They don’t have to like the official personally or professionally, but they must always respect the official personally and professionally.

I know many fans will disagree with this opinion, thinking that NFL officials do not have enough accountability when they miss calls without fear of reprisal. I would counter that argument with Hugo Cruz.

It is time that the NFL make players ride the pine next week if they continue to abuse the officials after the game.

Mark Schultz
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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6 thoughts on “NFL must start suspending players and coaches for postgame confrontations with officials

  1. If it’s a game decision isnt there a process that the coaches can use on Monday to have the NFL officiating dept look at certain calls and give explanations? They should be suspended for these types of incidents if it occurs after the game, as there already is a process.

    The Ellis incident appears to be a personal non game issue, and, in the league respect is earned, even with the officials, they use that respect for preventive officiating during the game. It appears this isnt the first time this offical has been involved in this type of incident. The nfl needs to look into both sides of these non-game related discussions like the Cam Newton non-roughing call a few years ago, when a ref allegedly told him he was too young for a roughing call. (The video clear shows Cam being stopped in his tracks by a comment from the ref)

    As an audo tech, i.can tell you it’s not hard to put a recorder on the ref and then the nfl can hear what was said, or record directly from the communication system on their ear (not the stadium mic) to ensure if a player is says an offical said something to them it can be investigated. The usual coach yelling in the line or wing offical ears would also be record if an unsportsmanlike is called.

    My 2 cents.

  2. Stephen as far as I know, coaches can ask for reviews/explanations of calls made, and the Officiating Department makes a reply. I would assume wireless communication is monitored or recorded, the problem would be the refs only turn on their mics when they need to talk. I think it would be a hard sell to place a second mic on each ref just to record an incident that happens very rarely (plus I’m not sure the ref union would like that).

    In my area of expertise, soccer officials can caution or send off players, coaches and team personnel from the moment they arrive at the field (stadium) to when they leave, with or without showing the yellow or red cards. Send offs carry an automatic 1 game suspension, so it is a convenient tool to use while the match is not being played to control the teams. But ejections in football don’t automatically carry additional penalties; that is up for the league to decide. I personally think any ejection/disqualification/forced removal from the game, especially for the new unsportsmanlike conduct 2-and-done rule, should have automatic penalties baked into the football rulebook or league rules, so that we don’t have to wait for the league to arbitrarily decide what behavior is acceptable. Give the refs the power to address these post-game situations so that they don’t happen.

  3. I don’t have a problem with it in principle, provided that officials are held accountable as well.

    The down judge from the Steelers-Chargers game absolutely deserved a multi-game suspension. He missed multiple false starts and badly blew the spot when a prone, not-moving player was touched down, costing the Steelers a challenge and a timeout when Al Riveron again failed to properly review the play. He then made the offside call on the Chargers first attempt at a game-winning field goal. It may have been correct, but I have yet to see a video supporting it. Given his disastrous attempts at officiating to that point and absence of supporting video, I’m inclined to believe the call was either incorrect or too close to decide a game with.

    I understand the thinking behind officials being an extension of the league. Major League Baseball often doesn’t do enough to support its umpires. I have a bigger problem with MLB’s actions because in a lot of those cases, the umpire was actually correct and still gets attacked.

    Ultimately I wouldn’t mind seeing more significant player discipline for these incidents, but I think that the disciplining of officials for poor performance, especially those as poor as the DJ from the Steelers-Chargers game, need to be disciplined as well. It’s one thing to miss a bang-bang call. It’s another to blow the easy calls play after play.

  4. I must agree with Hbk314. Player discipline for acts of aggression towards officials needs to be tightened up. That said, I think if the NFL was doing a better job of disciplining officials who have poor performances, and, instead of keeping that so much in house allowing the players (and fans) to know that discipline was meted out, then it might be easier for the players to hold back hostility.
    Just like when a player knows there’s a major consequence for an action, they will often think twice before their action, if an official has little consequence for major game errors, what is the chance they will work on their performance?
    In this past Thursday’s game, there was a helmet to helmet hit by Jaylon Smith on Alvin Kamara. The hit was roundly criticized in the media. For a league that allegedly values player safety, this one was an easy one to call. No flag. Not only have we not heard of a fine from the NFL offices, but there doesn’t seem to be any penalty for the line judge (Byron Boston) or field judge (Terry Brown) who both had clear unobstructed views of a player leading with the crown of the helmet, nor for anyone on Walt Anderson’s crew.
    Calls go missed from time to time. It’s human error and it’s unfortunate, but that’s the game. We are not yet willing to allow for more replay to get certain calls correct. But a call of this nature, which could have dangerous effects on a player’s health (a hallmark statement of the NFL) is too big to miss in real time. A review should follow as well as a fine and/or suspension for the official who misses calls of this nature.

  5. And, I quote from your article –

    “I know many fans will disagree with this opinion, thinking that NFL officials do not have enough accountability when they miss calls without fear of reprisal. I would counter that argument with Hugo Cruz.”

    TOTAL BS! Hugo was incompetent, but there are worse DJs out there still on the field. And, I can think of one who has a SB under his belt that has become gut wrench awful.

    Ask yourself this question – why is the quality of officiating going down? The NFL surely tries to keep the officials up to speed and yet… Are they as good as the Big Ten or the SEC?

    Perhaps, the league has hired too many officials for optics rather than for merit. Think skin / kin / women … as opposed to best.

    The players and coaches have a right to be angry. Although, the fans have the most justification in being angry. At least the players are hired for merit. That’s all I have to say about that!

  6. Mark is an apologist for the officials.

    His descriptions of plays in the weekly calls blog sometimes stretch the truth to the point of outright lying to make the officials look good.

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