In the annual league meeting held in Boston, commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the media on various topics. Of interest here, he was asked about the influence that star quarterbacks might have on the officials. (We will get to his response shortly.)
We did not specifically address the star-treatment aspect here, as there is an entire conspiracy movement well documented on the Internet that the officials are out to “get” certain teams or protect certain players.
The conspiracy movement gained some steam over the past week with two hairline judgment calls in the Week 4 Ravens–Patriots game. The league won’t weigh in on whether the calls were bad, because it does not want to affect future judgment calls. In fact, the league’s Game-Related Discipline manual distributed to the players specifically addresses such judgment calls:
The Competition Committee emphasizes that whenever a game official is confronted with a potential unnecessary-roughness situation and is in doubt about calling a foul, he should lean toward safety and not hesitate to throw the flag.
Some have seized upon the effort of Tom Brady to draw a 15-yard penalty against the defense, and this week’s “Official Review” segment on NFL Total Access has the video of the play in question. After mostly evading a hit from Terrell Suggs, Brady turns to referee Ron Winter and gestures for a penalty flag. Winter, who is already reaching for the flag, nods to Brady and throws the flag. To those believing there is a conspiracy, this looked like Winter acquiesced to Brady’s plea, rather than—having already decided to penalize—merely acknowledged Brady’s request. (Much like if a quarterback unsuccessfully lobbies for the call, the referee would likely shake his head “no.”)
Not surprisingly, the commissioner yesterday dismissed claims of impropriety:
I don’t think they influence the officials. I take a different position. I think it’s really to some extent a coaching matter. The players should be playing. They should be focused on doing their job. And the officials need to do their job. If it interfered with the officials doing their job, then I would have more of a concern. I don’t think it influences the officials. I don’t think it’s been a problem that has been raised to me that it’s a conflict or in any way difficult for our officials to manage on the field.