The Resurrection, starring Al Riveron

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I hate blaming refs for losses because it always feels like the last bastion for losers. But I've been thinking a lot about last Sunday's game and the role officiating may have played in the outcome. For the record, I try to focus more on consistency by a particular game crew than I do on one call here, one call there. In other words, as long as they're calling the game the same for both teams, I can get over most mistakes by the officials on the field. Refs are human, they're not going to be perfect and each game grew has certain tendencies in terms of how they call the game. So, I understand week-to-week, there will be some variability in how penalties are called (or not). But if each crew is consistent, for the most part, within the game, I can live with it.

That said, what's really, really bugging me (and my frustration is mounting, hence this rant), is the lack of consistency from the geniuses at the league level in NY.

Last season (or was it the season before...I can't keep track), the head of NFL officials called for a reversal of a Vikings TD against the Packers due to OPI. As far as I am aware, this is the 1st and only time in NFL history a review official at the league office overrode the game crew based on this type of situation, and even the players and officials at the game were confused by what was going on. The Vikings end up losing the game (by 5 points, IIRC) and while this call may not have cost them the game, it certainly played a major role.

Fast forward to last week's game against the Seahawks and there were at least two plays where the unexplainable (and indefensible, IMO) lack of consistency from the league office reared it's ugly head:

  • In week 4, Harrison Smith is ejected for helmet to helmet contact on a "bang-bang" play where he had little or no time to react against a player that was moving toward him and also lowering his head into contact. The ejection is supported after video review by the league office ('s my understanding ALL plays that potentially involve helmet to helmet contact are supposed to be reviewed). In week 5, a Seahawks defender INITIATES (i.e. not bang-bang and completely avoidable) helmet-to-helmet contact on Irv Smith as he's falling to the ground while moving away from the other player. The refs on the field flag the play but miss the helmet-to-helmet, and there's no review by the NFL. WTF?

  • Over the past few years, there's been an emphasis by the league to have the refs keep their whistles in their pocket on potential turnover plays to avoid blowing the play dead prematurely. To my understanding, they want the play to progress and then it can be fixed later, if necessary, because all turnovers are reviewed by the league office. Against the Seahawks, Kirk Cousins gets hit and the ball comes loose before he starts his forward throwing motion. It was a fumble and the officials should have let the play continue BUT...they blew the whistle before the ball hits the ground and before possession was established by either team. In other words: THE PLAY WAS DEAD (before Sunday's game, I always thought I knew what that phrase meant). The Wizards of Wall Street (or close enough, anyway) review the play and award Seattle the ball. Much like the OPI reversal example I already mentioned, this is the 1st and likely only, because Vikings, time in NFL history I can recall an NFL review overriding a whistle by the officials on the field, resurrecting a play from the dead and awarding the other team the ball. On the one hand, we all witnessed a miracle, yay! (it's a resurrection joke...get it?) On the other hand, and again, WTF?

To me, these types of examples are MUCH worse than inconsistency amongst game crews. This is the HEAD OF NFL OFFICIATING, sitting in an office, looking at a video (of the only game being played at the time last Sunday), with a remote in one hand and, apparently, his D​ in the other, interpreting the rules differently week-to-week, team-by-team...and unlike the game crews which move around each week, it's the same damn, small crew (I have no idea how many people sit in this room but I do know the head idiot, Al Riveron, is the constant "voice of reason" justifying these B.S. decisions).

This is fast becoming, IMO, an integrity of the game issue for the NFL and no one in the media seems to want to talk about it. Officiating is hard, but it's not this hard. What gives?

PROLOGUE (which, as it turns out, may be longer than the original post):

After reviewing some early comments, I thought it may be worth clarifying myself on a few points. Before doing so, I actually did a little "NFL rule" research, which is something I should have done before writing this post. As it relates to the two examples from Sunday's game:

  • My primary beef with the helmet-to-helmet example wasn't the fact Harrison got ejected and the Seattle guy didn't. My issue is that I thought that all helmet-to-helmet related penalties are automatically reviewed for possible ejection (like it is, I believe, with CFB targeting rule). It turns out, the NFL rule is a little murkier. In the NFL, if the on field officials think a player initiates helmet-to-helmet contact, they call an "unnecessary roughness" personal foul, which the crew on Sunday did. Then, if the on field officials think it's worthy of ejection based on (my summary): 1) lowers helmet to create contact, 2) unobstructed path and 3) clearly avoidable, the on field crew can call for an ejection (BTW...I think this standard was met on Sunday but not with Smith a week earlier...but that's the on field crew, I'll forgive). Then, if the on field crew is calling for ejection, the NFL reviews the play before a final decision is made. In other words, it does sound like the NFL only reviews if an ejection is "recommended" by the crew on the field. So, in this case, my angst directed at NFL HQ may be misplaced but I still have two issues: a) I'm not the only one confused...the game announcers on Sunday were also expecting an automatic review and b) if a player is getting penalized for helmet-to-helmet, shouldn't it automatically be reviewed like they do in college? After all, how the Eff can a ref on the field accurately determine all 3 criteria for ejection in real time. If they're worried enough to throw the flag, the play should be reviewed, IMO. (As a side note...the college game is SO MUCH better officiated than the NFL and they play WAY MORE games every week with WAY LESS officiating controversies)
  • Regarding the "dead ball" fumble play. I already said, it was a fumble and therefore (but I didn't say clearly) it should not have been blown dead. But it WAS BLOWN DEAD, THE PLAY WAS OVER AND THERE'S NO EXPLANATION, OR PRECEDENT IN LEAGUE HISTORY AS FAR AS I'M AWARE, FOR THIS CALL TO BE REVERSED. Rather than justify my position for those of you that weren't clear on this point, I will simply refer you to an excellent comment below by Kitty Wagon that references the NFL rule book on this type of play (look for the big purple wall). I think the head of NFL officiating may have made league history on Sunday night (for the 1st and only time this has ever happened), and it might have cost the Vikings the game.
Overall, I tried to steer clear of criticizing on field officials in this article. They have a hard job, they're not perfect and mistakes will be made. On the whole, the NFL game refs do far more good than bad in terms of their role. The focus of my comments is on the ever changing, unclear application of rules by the fine folks at NFL HQ that are primarily responsible for TEACHING the rules to game officials/players/fans and SETTING THE EXAMPLE of consistency and clarity for everyone else. Al Riveron and his small group of minions are the biggest problem with league officiating and this is a "top down" problem that won't get better until the HMFIC can get it right.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.