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The NFL Officially has a Problem

The NFL Officially has a Problem

An Official Crisis?

The powers that be in the NFL are not happy.

The 24 hours after the Super Bowl have been not been dominated by talk of One for the Thumb, two of the longest plays in Super Bowl history, Jerome Bettis’ triumphant departure from the NFL, or even Big Ben posting the worst quarterback rating for a winning signal caller. Nobody’s even talking about the lame show that the ancient, washed up group formerly deserving of the title The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll put on at halftime.

No, the buzz is all about the officiating. That’s the absolute last thing that Tags and company want to be the talk of the town. And it’s not just the lunatic fringe on the message boards and call-in shows that are in an uproar over the zebras; the major newspapers and network TV have the story plastered all over the place as well. It’s enough to make Paul Tagliabue wish that there had been a wardrobe malfunction this year or wish that they had allowed the racier versions of the GoDaddy.com commercials to be shown, anything at all to take attention away from the guys in the striped shirts.

There were four calls that are drawing most of the attention today, calls that all went against Seattle and possibly cost them a net of some 18 points or more in a game that they lost by 11. Those four are the offensive pass interference on Darrell Jackson, the touchdown awarded to Roethlisberger just before halftime, the holding call on Seattle that called back a pass that went to the Steelers one, and the personal foul called on Matt Hasselbeck when he tackled the defender who had intercepted his pass.

They were all peculiar in their own way. The pass interference call was a late one, coming only after the Steeler defender turned and complained to the official, who had shown no inclination to throw a flag before that. The TD call on Big Ben’s run was also a delayed call. If the ball did indeed eke over the goal line as he was going down, why did the official not make the call immediately? Instead, he waited until Roethlisberger had pushed the ball over goal after he was clearly down. The holding call looked like nothing other than routine pass blocking and the cut block called on Hasselbeck was just a flat-out missed call.

This comes on top of a postseason filled with questionable calls, from a pass interference flag against New England to a reversal of an interception by the Steelers for which the league issued an apology.

The Redskins had more than their share of controversial calls in their games this year. In Denver, an apparent safety was overturned on replay under a questionable interpretation of the tuck rule. The call on Mike Alstott’s two-point conversion that represented the winning points during the regular season in Tampa Bay was just the last of several head-scratchers by the referee crew on that day.

The cumulative effect of all of this has been quite damaging to the NFL. An unscientific poll of members of the CPND Redskins Addiction Board here shows that a majority believes that NFL officials have performed with “alarming incompetence”. Anyone who is going to shell out money to attend an athletic event or invest the time to watch one on TV wants the outcome to be determined by the players, not by the officials. The more people perceive that the team that gets the calls is the one that wins, the less popular the game will be.

The worse news for Tagliabue is that people thinking that the referees are merely grossly incompetent is the better case scenario here. There are those who are calling the very integrity of the officials into question. Many of them are bitter Seahawk fans who probably will calm down and angry gamblers who gave the four. But not all of them are from the Pacific Northwest and not all of them are going to go back to watching football as usual.

I am not one to believe that there is any conspiracy to tilt the officiating towards one team or another. As a practical matter, there isn’t enough gain in having, say, the Steelers win to balance the risk of the incredible damage the league would suffer if word of any plot to fix a game were to get out.

That being said, I will say this. If a crew of officials, for whatever reason, was inclined to fix a game they would have made exactly the calls they made against the Seahawks on Sunday. The timing and impact of the calls could not have been better had there been a sinister plot to ensure that the Steelers would be crowned as champs.

Perception is reality, especially in a sports league. The NFL will only remain popular if people perceive that it’s on the up and up. The events of Super Bowl Sunday will no doubt harden the suspicions of the conspiracy theorists and push more people into the ranks of the cynics.

It’s enough to make Tagliabue long for the days of Janet Jackson and Desperate Housewives.

In the next installment here, this observer’s suggestions on how to fix some of the problems with the officiating.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book chronicles every game the Redskins played from 1937 through 2001. It is available at www.RedskinsGames.com

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Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 3, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No availability

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 8; Panthers @ Redskins 16; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), DE Anthony Lanier (leg)
Questionable: G Brandon Scherff (ankle), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back)
Final injury report

Redskins vs. Cardinals
FOX, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Dick Stockton and Chris Spielman
Line: Cardinals -2.5

Resetting the playoff odds

The Redskins start their stretch drive to the playoffs tomorrow. The will play five games in 29 days. After that, they will have either earned the right to keep playing or will they go home.

Let’s get out the imaginary $100 in casino chips and look at the various possibilities of the finish to the season and spread out the chips based on how likely each scenario is. As always, you are welcome to jump into the comments if you agree or disagree.

Win NFC East, $0—This might be worth a buck or two but this place doesn’t have any chips smaller than $5 and it’s not worth investing even that much in the chance of this happening. The scenario would have to be the Redskins winning out, the Cowboys losing out, and the Giants losing at least two more games. I’d put something on the first scenario and a few chips on the last one but no way is Dallas going 0-4. Keeping my chips in my pocket on this one.

Wild card as No. 5 seed, $40—To do this the Redskins would have to stay ahead of the wild card contenders behind them (see next scenario) and make up a game and a half on the Giants. They play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins would have to make up one game between now and then and they could then determine their status on January 1 at FedEx Field. The Giants go to Pittsburgh on Sunday and host Dallas a week after that so we will see how that looks in a couple of weeks. As of now, the No. 6 seed would go to Detroit for the first round of the playoffs while the No. 5 would play the Falcons in Atlanta. That, of course, is subject to change.

Wild card as No. 6 seed, $35—I think getting the five seed is slightly more likely than getting the six since I think the Giants are a mirage. But even if New York keeps it going, the Redskins can clinch a spot by running the table in their last five games. That would make them 11-4-1 and no other wild card contender could catch them. If they win four of five, only the Bucs can catch them and it would take a 5-0 finish for Tampa Bay. Winning three of five still gives them a good shot at getting in although at that point you are also opening the door for the Vikings, Saints, Packers, and Eagles to catch fire and jump ahead of them.

Out of playoffs, $25—I might be putting a little too much here but it’s the NFL and it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the Redskins could finish 2-3 and miss out altogether. Their margin for error is slim and an injury here and a bad break there could have them on the outside looking in.

Tandler on Twitter

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When asked to vote for top 20 players, Pierre Garcon just wrote 'Kirk Cousins' 20 times

When asked to vote for top 20 players, Pierre Garcon just wrote 'Kirk Cousins' 20 times

Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon just filled out his ballot for the annual NFL Top 100 Players list.

Let's just say it's pretty one-dimensional. 

Straight like that

A photo posted by Pierre Garcon (@pierregarcon) on

As you can see, the form asks guys to rank who they consider the top 20 players in the league. But instead of naming 20 different players, Garcon voted for the same player 20 times. Talk about stuffing the ballot box. 

No surprise, but he's hyping his quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

Cousins is having a career year with the Redskins. His stock has soared over the last three weeks especially. Take a look at his numbers in that span: 84 completions on 116 attempts for 1,086 yards (72 percent), eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

Those efforts earned the Michigan State product NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors. And more importantly, Cousins has the Redskins in favorable position to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

So far this season, Garcon has caught 52 passes from Cousins for 636 yards and two scores. 

MORE REDSKINS: Reed out, 7 other Redskins questionable