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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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Redskins promote CB Phillips from practice squad, waive Bruton Jr. and Clausell

Redskins promote CB Phillips from practice squad, waive Bruton Jr. and Clausell

The Redskins made a couple of roster moves just before departing for Arizona to play the Cardinals.

They signed cornerback Dashaun Phillips from the practice squad and cut offensive tackle Blaine Clausell. The Redskins also waived safety David Bruton Jr. off of injured reserve.

Phillips was the Redskins’ nickel corner for the first three games of the season, and he made four tackles and recovered a fumble. But they moved rookie Kendall Fuller up into the slot corner role in Week 4 and Phillips spent several weeks on the inactive list before being waived on November 12 and added to the practice squad three days later.

The moves became known after Redskins coach Jay Gruden had spoken to the media for the day so we can only speculate as to the reasoning behind them. Actually, the release of Clausell isn’t hard to figure out. He was signed after Trent Williams started his four-game suspension and with Williams set to return on Monday and the other options at backup tackle healthy there was no point in keeping him around.

Phillips is likely going to Arizona as an insurance policy. The Cardinals like to spread the field with a lot of wide receivers. They will want to have five cornerbacks active. They do have Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Fuller, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler. But Breeland is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and they Redskins don’t want to take any chance of being caught short-handed at cornerback if he suffers a setback. That’s especially true when they don’t need to bring an extra tackle along.

Depending on how things shake out injury-wise against the Cardinals there is a good chance that we could see Phillips on the waiver wire once again as a roster spot will be needed for Williams.

Bruton started the first four games of the season at safety before going on injured reserve with a concussion. This past offseason he signed a three-year, $9 million free agent contract with $3.4 million full guaranteed. There will be a deal cap hit of approximately $1.7 million in 2017 to account for the prorated bonus. 

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Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins

Out

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.

DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas 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

LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.

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

T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.

CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.

RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.

Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)

Cardinals

Check back for the Cardinals injury update after they release their report later this afternoon.