First down? A review of the Redskins-Giants ref debacle

First down? A review of the Redskins-Giants ref debacle
December 2, 2013, 11:45 am
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Shanahan explains first down referee controversy

Let’s be clear here—the officiating debacle just after the two-minute warning in the Redskins-Giants game did not cost Washington the game. A whole host of issues that were present after the home team took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter were responsible for the Redskins’ fourth straight loss and their elimination from playoff contention. Primarily, if Fred Davis catches the pass right in his bread basket at around the New York 30 on the play immediately after the chains were moved in error, we’re not talking about this at all today.

But the fact that the error didn’t factor in the outcome doesn’t make what Jeff Triplette and company did—and didn’t do—any less egregious. It could have been costly and that’s what counts. 

And it didn’t have to happen. The mistake could have been corrected immediately but Triplette chose not to give the Redskins an “unfair advantage” by stopping the clock. 

This from Mike Florio, our corporate cousin from PFT:

So instead of giving a potential unfair advantage to Washington, Triplette gave the home team a clear unfair disadvantage, by leading everyone falsely to believe that a first down had been gained, via the giant orange stakes shuttling down the sideline.

Florio also took issue with Triplette simply saying he could not respond to Mike Shanahan’s statement that one member of the crew had told him the play had gained a first down because he didn’t know that had happened. 

Sorry, Jeff.  But that’s not nearly good enough.  You’re the spokesman for the crew in that setting.  If you don’t know whether one of your colleagues told Shanahan that a first down had been earned, you need to go find out and then continue the interview.

In his Monday Morning Quarterback column, Peter King noted that clock stoppages in the last two minutes are routine for replay reviews. Even if it may give one team or the other an advantage, the overriding concern is to get the call right. And the spot of the ball is reviewable. 

My biggest question: In the final two minutes of either half, instant replay can buzz down to correct or adjudicate a spotting of the ball. Why not do so in these types of cases, especially when there’s obvious chaos on the field? As for Triplette’s saying stopping the clock would have created an unfair advantage for Washington: Does that mean an officiating crew never can call for a measurement when the offensive team is out of timeouts? It’s a spurious contention by Triplette; yes, it would have advantaged Washington to stop the clock. But two officials on the crew think it’s a first down, and one has motioned the chain crew up the field.

King quoted former NFL official Jim Daopoulos who found the way it was handled puzzling.

“It’s a reviewable play, and at the very least it should have been reviewed. But Jeff has the power to stop the clock there. What problem would it have been to stop the clock? What was going on on the field was an error that had to be corrected. I don’t understand it.”

Again, if Davis catches that pass at around the New York 30, the Redskins are in business with a legitimate chance to send the game into overtime and this whole mess goes unnoticed. But a similar situation could come up in the future when the team with the ball is much closer to a crucial score. The NFL needs to determine how such an error should be handled going forward.