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NFL Admits Two Officiating Errors

Dec 3, 2009 – 1:45 PM
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Matt Snyder

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Each week on NFL Network, they have a segment with the head of NFL officiating, Mike Pereira. Generally speaking, I like the segment, but I don't feel they cover enough of the most controversial calls. Many times, it seems like it's just a platform to reinforce their calls as correct. Sure, they need to have that -- and I try to do my part in Zebra Report each week -- because there are many fallacies floating around the general public about the rules and how a game is called. Still, they seem to dodge a lot of the questionable judgment calls.

This week, however, Pereira discussed two calls in particular and admitted the officials on the field made pretty egregious errors on highly publicized plays. In fact, he referred to the pass interference call on Houston's Jacques Reeves as a "40-some-odd-yard mistake" that "is hard to stomach." He also discussed the missed spot at the conclusion of the fourth quarter in the Ravens-Steelers game. You can watch the near-eight-minute video by clicking here.

Personally, I was quite pleased the NFL admitted error on the pass interference penalty. The spot one was really cut-and-dry, so they had no choice but to own up to it. The interference, however, was still a judgment call and they could have easily just ignored it or even tried to justify the call. Instead, Pereira actually referred to the mistake as "egregious."

Obviously, a 43-yard penalty that is a mistake is not acceptable. That's almost half a field. It can be argued the call completely changed the momentum of the game. I'd argue the lead was still only 13 over Peyton Manning and it only occurred on first down, but I can't argue against how much of a game-changer giving someone a 43-yard gift is. That is, again, unacceptable.

In his back-and-forth with Pereira, studio host Rich Eisen brought up an interesting argument. There used to be "major" (fifteen yards) and "minor" (five yards) facemask penalties. Why not make flagrant interference calls be spot-fouls while less-than-flagrant ones are just 15. After all, you can't make all interference penalties 15 yards, otherwise a defensive back could simply tackle a receiver when he's been beaten deep and only cost his team 15. And you hate to see a mistake turn into 43 yards for the opposition. So this idea could make sense.

Pereira replied that the league would rather judge intent than degree of flagrancy, and I would definitely be on board with this. Still, don't hold your breath. This is an offensive league and they aren't about to start altering rules that help the defense. The true bottom line here is that the back judge needs to better judge of what is interference and what isn't. In the case of the Reeves play, that clearly wasn't, even in fast motion.
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