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Fixing It: Suspend, Simplify, and Upgrade the Technology

Fixing It: Suspend, Simplify, and Upgrade the Technology

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue is faced with a choice. He can either face the crisis of confidence in the game officials that reached its peak during last Sunday’s Super Bowl or he can sweep that crisis under the rug.

Given his history, the commish will probably choose to do the latter even though such a course of inaction risks the NFL being perceived in the same light as the WWF. His spokesman Greg Aiello has the broom out already, saying, "It was a very well-officiated playoffs, including the Super Bowl." One has to wonder what playoffs he was watching, especially considering that the league actually had to apologize for blown call on the Troy Polamalu interception, something that is extremely rare if not unprecedented.

Aiello’s comments brought back memories of the likes of Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi Minister of “Information” and, for those of us with a few years on us, Joe Isuzu, a smiling, lying car salesman of commercial fame.

Or maybe he was more like Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars, waving his hand and trying to play Jedi mind tricks on us. “These are not the droids you’re looking for. . .(waves hand). . .That was flagrant holding on Locklear. . .”

The signs so far indicate that the commissioner’s head is buried well into the sand (or perhaps elsewhere that the sun doesn’t shine) about the officiating problem. Should he ever pull it out and choose to do something about it, however, here are a few common sense suggestions:

  • Suspend the members of the Super Bowl crew of officials for a minimum of two games at the start of next season: The Atlantic Coast Conference just suspended an entire officiating crew for one game for making one incorrect call on a technical foul in a game between Florida State and Duke; certainly the NFL has the guts to take such action if a college conference does. If not the whole crew, at least suspend referee Bill Leavy, the one who made the PI call on Jackson, the one who ran in, hesitated, looked again and then awarded Roethlisberger the TD (even Roethlisberger himself admitted on Letterman’s show that he didn’t think he’d scored), the one who just couldn’t keep his flag in his pocket on the holding call on Locklear, and the one who flagged Hasselbeck for the perfectly legal tackle he made after throwing an interception. The ones who made the calls involving the two quarterbacks, in particular, should be hit hard, perhaps even fired. The first one looked so bad because of the hesitation and the second one was just horrendously, inexcusably wrong. And while he’s at it, Tags needs to suspend Peter Morelli, the referee who overturned the Polamalu interception in the Steelers-Colts playoff game and whoever should have thrown a delay of game flag on Chicago near the end of the Panthers-Bears game. That should be just a start. If an official makes a bonehead call next year, he sits for a couple of weeks. The NFL announces it and everyone knows about it.
  • Simplify some of the rules: Start with the tuck rule. If the ball goes backwards as a result of a continuous motion of the quarterback’s arm, it’s a free ball, not an incomplete forward pass. That just makes sense. Go to the college rule that says you just have to have one foot inbounds to make a reception. That rule makes no provision for a “push out” by a defender, a rule that calls for a great deal of judgment by the official. You have to get a foot in, period. Simpler is better. Since pass interference is so much of a judgment call, use the college rule and make the penalty 15 yards instead of a spot foul except in the most flagrant cases. What is the need for the rule that says you have to maintain control of the ball when you hit the ground on a reception in the end zone? Common sense says that Edell Shepherd scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter in Tampa Bay’s Wild Card round loss to Washington. Why have a rule that runs counter to that? If, as everyone who played the game and his brother will tell you, holding can be called on every play, why not change the rules and legalize all but the most blatant use of hands?
  • Use technology: Some technological solutions are very simple. You could devise a contraption that would vibrate the instant the play clock hit zero. That way the official responsible for calling delay of game doesn’t have to look at the play clock, he would know if time had run out before the snap. A simple device in each official’s whistle could give a visual indication of exactly when that whistle blew, cleaning up a lot of the “down by contact” mess. Some solutions are a bit more complex and expensive. Why rely on the TV crew to have a camera right where you need it? Put a camera on each side of the goal lines and line them up precisely with the goal line. Between those and a computer-generated visualization of the plane of the goal line, there will never be any doubt about a play like Roethlisberger’s “score”. Other strategically placed cameras would aid in other calls. Replace the paint on the sideline with that tape used in tennis tournaments that sends out a signal when it’s contacted. Along with all of this, put an official in a booth with a high-definition monitor and a direct voice line to the referee. Let this official have some input when the striped shirts huddle. He would see when the whistles blew and when and where the sideline sensors are activated and his jurisdiction would be whatever he sees. He could say, “don’t make that call, you’ll just end up overturning it,” or, “tell me again exactly where the holding occurred there.” All of this may cost a couple of hundred thousand a game, but it’s not like the NFL can’t afford it. Indeed, with its very integrity being called into questions the league can’t afford not to do it.

There are calls to make the officials full time employees of the league. I wouldn’t be opposed to that, but somebody would need to explain to me what these guys would do during the week and during the offseason that would lead to them doing their jobs on Sundays better. I mean, baseball umpires (see the shrinking strike zone) and basketball officials (see traveling and the three-second rule) are full time and I don’t see where the officiating in those sports is any better than it is in the NFL. Again, I’m not against it, I just don’t see the benefits and therefore I don’t see it as a solution to the problem. My email address is at the top of this article if anyone could enlighten me here.

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?

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Why Nate Sudfeld is one clear winner from Redskins 2017 NFL Draft

Why Nate Sudfeld is one clear winner from Redskins 2017 NFL Draft

For months Redskins fans debated if the organization would take a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. The question made little sense though, as Washington has three passers on the roster already.

Certainly Kirk Cousins unique contract situation brought some intrigue to the draft. Might the Redskins consider a draft day trade of their franchise quarterback, especially if the team knows a true long-term deal remains elusive? Even with a rumor floated about the Browns pursuit of Cousins, no trade materialized, as most plugged in Redskins reporters had been suggesting for some time. 

Still, at each Redskins pick national commentators wondered if Washington might look for another passer. Pittsburgh's Nathan Peterman was one name. He lasted until the fifth round when the Bills selected him, giving the 'Skins not one but two chances to draft Peterman in the fourth round. They chose Samaje Perine, a true value pick in the fourth, and Montae Nicholson, an upside play after an up and down career at Michigan State.

Later in the draft, when the 'Skins were flush with picks, the team continued to eschew from quarterbacks. Miami Hurricanes QB Brad Kaaya didn't get picked until the 215th pick. It's possible that the Burgundy and Gold draft board never popped with a QB when the team's pick came up, just simple bad timing. But one thing was certain during the NFL Draft in Philadelphia, teams will make aggressive moves to get QBs they believe in. Washington didn't. Even late in the draft, the 'Skins moved up to get a player they liked in Wyoming's Chase Roullier. The organization wasnt afraid to go get players they liked. 

What does all this mean? It likely means the Redskins believe in Nate Sudfeld.

Drafted in the sixth round in 2016, Sudfeld showed some promise during the preseason his rookie year. At 6-foot-6 and 235 lbs., the former Indiana Hoosier has ideal size for the position. Most important, former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was a big believer in Sudfeld's promise.

Washington showed again and again that McCloughan's input still mattered on their draft board. Early picks like Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson certainly seem like McCloughan picks - and the former GM scouted Anderson at the Senior Bowl in January. Samaje Perine, the strongest RB in the draft, fits McCloughan's physical football player mold.

Cousins is going nowhere in 2017, and maybe, just maybe, the team and their quarterback get a deal done before the July 15th deadline. Colt McCoy is locked in at backup QB, and the organization believes that he could step in for Cousins and the offense would not be particularly slowed.

And then there's Sudfeld.

Cousins is under contract for 2017, and Bruce Allen made clear the team has more options in 2018. It's entirely possible Cousins is the 'Skins QB for the next five years, a deal could get done, or the team could use the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins in 2018. Let the QB negotiate with other teams, and Washington can match or get compensated for his exit. 

By that time, Sudfeld would be two years in the Redskins system. It's likely he will get a lot of work again this preseason, and the team will be watching his development with a close eye. Should Cousins exit, it's still premature to suggest Sudfeld would emerge as the Redskins starter in 2018, as McCoy is under contract in 2018 also. 

What is clear, however, is the Redskins did not invest in another developmental quarterback in 2017's draft. They must like the development of the passer that's already in house. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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