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Philadelphia sports talker claims private admission of McAulay botched call

ind phi punt block

The well-worn aphorism that officiating is incompetent is being skillfully kindled for sports radio’s regular season conflagration … by sports radio. Philadelphia radio host and TV anchor Howard Eskin advances this insider item without context or follow-up from his back channels he’s established with Terry McAulay’s crew:

Actually, to parse his words, he refers to officials, which could refer to any officials, not necessarily the crew on the field. But, this would be a trivial matter if the goal is to chum the fan-infested waters. Update: As pointed out by reader Brian Rosenwald, Eskin was on the sideline as a reporter for the Eagles radio broadcast, and would have been in a position to overhear a conversation or have an opportunity to ask a question.

The play Eskin refers to is a blocked punt in the third quarter of the preseason game the Eagles against the Colts (video). The Eagles punt rolled near the goal line, and efforts to corral the ball brought it into the end zone. After unpiling the scrum, McAulay signaled a touchdown.

The only way this play could be ruled a safety is if an out-of-bounds player touched a live ball in the end zone, which Eskin mentioned in a reply tweet to one of his followers. Leodis McKelvin, the Eagles special-teamer wearing number 21, is the only player who this could apply to, as his foot touches out in the process of recovery. For the sake of argument, let’s say that McKelvin did touch the ball while out of bounds. This would be extraordinarily difficult to sort out in traffic with a live loose ball, as there are so many moving parts in the recovery. As the officials were in reverse mechanics from the punt block, there was only one official in position to make the call, head linesman John McGrath, where ordinarily there could be an extra pair of eyes on the sideline. That said, such a call would tend to come out of replay, unless there was an obvious case of a player out of bounds.

Replay official Earnie Frantz did trigger a replay review, as it was a scoring play with an element requiring further review. Replay needed to clearly establish an out-of-bounds McKelvin touching the loose ball to achieve a reversal of a touchdown to a safety. In fact, there is nothing that shows that McKelivin even touched the ball, in or out of bounds. With no clear shot that shows that, there is only one appropriate call, and the one that McAulay and the officiating command center arrived at: “stands.” By announcing “stands” instead of “confirmed,” McAulay indicated that this was exactly how this played out in replay.

If there was a subsequent second-guessing of the call, the crew is completely in the clear. If Dean Blandino or Al Riveron, the senior staff in the officiating command center, agreed on the call, it has the imprimatur of correctness. No official could possibly be downgraded if they agree with the grader’s judgement on the call, even if that judgement later changes.

Update 10:15 p.m.: NFL spokesman Michael Signora told Football Zebras that this was called properly:

The on-field ruling is only reversed when the referee has clear and obvious visual evidence available that warrants a change.   That was not the case on this play, so by rule the on-field ruling of touchdown stands.

There is absolutely no issue with the touchdown call. What there is an issue with is that allegedly the officials spoke privately about the call to the media and, at that, would have chosen someone with Eskin’s track record. It seems much more likely that such a conversation never took place.

In the long run, Eskin’s first attempt to ignite this year’s bonfire against incompetent officiating is nothing more than a pile of wet sticks. But, it will fill some time on broadcast.

Image: Indianapolis Colts photo; h/t Dan McKenzie

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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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4 thoughts on “Philadelphia sports talker claims private admission of McAulay botched call

  1. Lets see, he screwed up the coin toss at the SB forgetting to get the captains choice before handing the coin to Joe Willie for flipping, in the same game, failed to shut the play down for a false start when the QB, who is a back, was moving forward and not being set before the snap and totally lost control over the Giant/Panther game last year. Humm, and he is considered one of the best referees in the NFL? Seriously!

  2. Good analysis, Al. Except for the part of shutting down the play for a false start, as your call would have effectively negated a safety, and the field goal on the ensuing drive. If the Broncos made it close enough for a field goal, your call results in an 8-point difference.

    And except for the part about losing control of the game. Yes, there is some blame to be handed around to the entire crew, even to McAulay, but the game was largely under control for a few long stretches. McAulay also needed more support from the rest of the crew, and they all admit, I’m sure, there were things to do differently in hindsight. But as a general matter, there is little to do from the offensive backfield when downfield receivers are battling it out.

    And, if the worst is the coin-toss situation … really? You would be distracted, too, if Namath was pimpin’ his faux fur coat around you.

  3. Ben the analysis is accurate, it does not matter what would’ve happened from an officiating stand point, it’s what actually happened. 1) he blew the FST call and yes it would’ve negated a safety which is the point, by failing to make the call he put the Ravens in a hole they never did dig their way out of. That was a Game Impact Call.
    2) As a veteran crew chief he needed to get his crew ready to work a game that He knew in advance was going to be a difficult game to work. There was plenty of pregame activity on social media to give him the heads up. A veteran crew chief takes control of the situation and does more than just watch when something happens. The Beckham foul happened right in front of him, the SJ threw and the Umpire threw but he just watched and did nothing. That is the time to step up and take control. He gets involved in most everything but he chocked on this play and then didn’t follow through when his supervisor told him he would be supported if he DQ’d players in this situation. He can’t throw the crew under the bus and blame them, he has to step up and take the hit on this one. He did not have his crew ready to work a tough game, bottom line, and it’s his responsibility. The question is why? Next time you chat with him might want to ask the question.
    Now the coin toss, distracted, really, a veteran official who has worked so many games gets distracted by a guy wearing a fur coat? Give me a break, if it was Ann Margeret or Brittney Spears and you had a idea of what she was wearing under the coat, maybe, but not Namath.
    I know he is your buddy and provides you with plenty of gossip on what is going on, but there is no way you can defend him in these situation. Oh by the way, how professional was he when he reamed out Jonah Monroe for missing a spot on a punt out of bounds. Look bush to me.

  4. PS: if you want to see a Referee/Crew Chief take control of a game, watch the USC/Alabama game and observe the white hat see a flagrant foul, call the foul and then appropriately DQ the player. Then search for last year’s Rose Bowl game and see the same white hat handle a long, lengthy and informative pre-toss introduction and not choke as Mr. Mcauley did.

    Isn’t he a supervisor for one of the college conference too? I wonder how he would’ve reacted if he called down to the referee, gave him specific instructions regarding a situation and said referee ignored him? Based on how he reacted when Monroe missed a meaningless spot in a preseason game, I’m sure he would have handled it poorly. Old axiom, praise in public, criticize in private! He is very good telling others about their mistakes, but has issues owning up to his own. Hell even his own union criticized him and how did he react, I quit, I’m taking my ball and going home. Can you say Overrated!

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