Don't Blame the Referees, Blame the Rules

The NFL had a major officiating fiasco following yesterday’s pair of entertaining Championship games. Games that ended in controversy.

Everyone who tuned in to watch the NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints know that the referees missed an embarrassing non-call penalty. A penalty that would have put the Saints in a position to win the game rather than lose in overtime.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

As heartbreaking as the Saints loss was for the franchise and city, the referees are not the main issue. Yes, they blew a clear and obvious pass interference penalty that kept the Rams in the game. But the real issue here is the NFL, the current rules suck.

This non-call in question is just a painful reminder that plays like that simply cannot be reviewed or challenged by coaches. The NFL does not allow instant replay to include penalties, especially huge judgment calls like pass interference.

That in my opinion is the biggest hypocrisy surrounding the game of football. The technology already exists. Instant replay assists referees on making better decisions with turnovers and possession.

Yet, decisions like the non-call penalty will continue to exist because officiating itself is driven by human error. Referees are paid to make decisions in real-time, making their rulings subjective. Calls have and will continue to go in favor of teams.

In the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, the referees to a lesser degree made a favorable ruling that benefited the Patriots with a roughing the passer penalty.

Considering how penalties like pass interference and roughing the passer have such an extreme impact on the momentum of the game. Why not review them? Well, this is where the NFL has fumbled over the past decade.

As a diehard football fan since the age of five, I’ve witnessed many replay debacles. From the “Fail Mary” in Seattle to the 2001 AFC Divisional “Tuck Rule” game, they both have openly criticized the NFL’s aging rulebook.

Despite everything, the rules need to complement officiating. Games like the ones played on Sunday were too big without replay in place. Legacies and careers were impacted. This was for a trip to play in Super Bowl 53, one that now feels tainted.

The technology exists and to the NFL’s credit, they have slowly tweekened the rulebook. Changes will eventually be made regarding the nature of reviewing penalties. But the damage is done. All anyone can say to the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs is good luck next year. A harsh reality for the players and fans around the NFL.

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