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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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Final injury report: Three Redskins out for Sunday

Final injury report: Three Redskins out for Sunday

Redskins

Out

C Spencer Long (concussion)—He missed the second half of the Cardinals game and has been in the concussion protocol this week. John Sullivan will start in his place.

S Will Blackmon (concussion)—Blackmon also has been in the concussion protocol and has not practiced all week. Donte Whitner and Duke Ihenacho will handle the safety position.

DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the Arizona game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.

Questionable

G Shawn Lauvao (groin)—It was a surprise to see him watching practice on Wednesday as no injury had been reported for him. But he came in for treatment and did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If he can’t go, Arie Kouandjio will start at left guard.

OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Fortunately Trent Williams is back from his suspension; Nsekhe was the starter while he was out. If Nsekhe is out, Vinston Painter will be the swing backup tackle.

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—After missing last week’s game with a third-degree separation of the AC join in his left shoulder, Reed was able to practice on a limited basis this week. If range of motion is still an issue he could sit or play very limited snaps. If it’s a matter of pain tolerance he will be a full go.  

G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Eagles.

DE Chris Baker (ankle)—Baker missed some practice this week but he should be able to go against the Eagles although his level of effectiveness will bear watching.

Also questionable for the Redskins: DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee), OLB Preston Smith (groin), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Derek Carrier (knee)

Eagles

Questionable

WR Jordan Matthews (ankle) and RB Ryan Matthews (knee) were full in practice all week and it seems likely that the Eagles’ leading receiver and rusher, respectively, will play on Sunday. Up in the air is the status of WR Dorial Green-Beckham (oblique), who missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) will miss his third straight game. He had a rough start in his NFL debut against the Redskins in Week 6 but he remained the starter until getting injured in Week 11. Since then the Eagles have moved LG Alan Barbre to right tackle with Stefen Wisniewski going in at left guard.

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - WR Ryan Grant opens up about good and bad of NFL life

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - WR Ryan Grant opens up about good and bad of NFL life

Ryan Grant generates a ton of reaction from Redskins fans - and it's not always postive. The third-year wideout sat down with JP Finlay to talk about the ups and downs of life in the NFL. 

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