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Reviewing the Official Review: CC Brown

Picture 1This weeks installment of the NFL’s Official Review focuses on the now infamous forward progress call that kept the Giants from rightly shutting out the Raiders last Sunday to the tune of 51-0. Instead the officials decided to award forward progress and return the ball to the Raiders who scored on the next play. In the linked clip, VP of NFL Officiating Mike Periera tries to explain how this all shook out.

“The ruling on the field was forward progress, not down by contact.”

You would think this is simple enough, right? Justin Fargas obviously got stripped of the ball before he was tackled to the ground on the play so there definitely was a fumble situation happening. But because a referee on the field was moving into position to rule forward progress the play was called dead before any whistles were blown, the fumble was then voided, and the ball is returned to the Raiders.

But wait a second, gut check time — when you watched the play in real time and then under slow motion — did or did you not see CC Brown clearly strip the ball away from Justin Fargas, recover the fumble without a whistle blown, and run it 90 yards into the endzone for a touchdown? Because I sure as hell did, and most everyone I’ve talked to saw it play out that way. So why couldn’t the officials review and correct the play? Periera continues:

“If we rule forward progress the play is not reviewable.”

Well isn’t that perfect… if the ref takes a step to the left to get positioning on where forward progress will be awarded once the play is over, and while the ref’s moving the ball pops out — the fumble doesn’t count. Doesn’t that seem strange to anyone else? In effect he official starts to make a judgment before the down is completed, before a single tackle is recorded, before Fargas’ knee or elbow hits the turf — and because of that official’s subtle reaction, a game changing play is erased from existence due to what he was going to rule regardless of whether or not the ball came out.

Picture 4This doesn’t sound like football to me anymore. When I grew up, if you lost control of the ball before you’re knee or elbow touched the ground it was a fumble, period. End of story.

It wasn’t until after CC Brown took off for the endzone with the recovered FUMBLE that a whistle blew — but even so the players are now taught to play through whistles just in case a mistake in officiating happens and the review process reveals the error… but the one caveat is that if forward progress is ruled then the play is not reviewable. Ummm…..what if an officiating mistake was clearly made but the play is not reviewable then? You’re screwed apparently.

So the problems here are clearly that of consistency, common sense, and a flawed ruling process. Common sense tells us that in a heated matter of 1 second on the football field you cannot possibly make the right call 100% of the time…. that’s why teams have been given the opportunity of review. So if the referee makes a mistake and starts to think forward progress a split second before the ball pops out, and that call cannot be reversed through the review process (however obvious the error) – we have found ourselves a gigantic loophole in the officiating and ruling process.

The only part of forward progress that can be reviewed as it turns out is where the football should be spotted. However, it does no good if the defense holds the ball at the end of the play… that confuses the ruling apparently.

Picture 2Consistency is however the larger problem because it keeps the waters muddy. The main example I have to share is one from last week’s ratings crusher — the Packers/Vikings MNF game where Adrian Peterson ran for a 3 yard gain, was stood up, stripped of the football – and it was returned 50 yards for a touchdown…. sound familiar?  It should, because that is 100% VERBATIM EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED IN THE GIANTS GAME!

Watch the clip here, you clearly see there is a problem of consistency in the NFL officiating when it comes to forward progress. Put it on their bill with the QB protection rules I guess. Why didn’t the officials rule forward progress in THAT play? The official was right there… he moved up to where Peterson had gained forward progress… the ball came out before Peterson was tackled… and the touchdown counted. But why? It had all the makings of a dead play if you apply the rules that were enforced in the Giants game.  So why the inconsistency here? Maybe because the officials in the Giants game got it wrong — and the official explanation we were given, instead of clearing the air, highlights the flaws inherent to the ruling and review processes in the NFL.

MEMO TO THE NFL OFFICIATING STAFF — if you can replay a piece of game footage in slow motion, the outcome of the play in question should be able to be officially reviewed and changed if need be. Do your due diligence now and if you make official reviews a part of the game, then you need to be consistent with the ability to review plays regardless of what an official thought was going to happen on any given down.

Mark my words – these kinds of loopholes that superficially determine which plays can be reviewed and which can’t are going to bite you in the ass if you don’t clean them up now. Take the Giants / Raiders blowout as the opportunity to adjust the ruling because if this kind of thing happens in a tight playoff game — you’re going to be flirting with a huge upheaval.

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