by Ryan Meehan
On Thursday night in the third quarter of the Baltimore Ravens – Denver Broncos game – Peyton Manning completed pass to Wes Welker which was a game changing play in the sequence of events that transpired there.
Only not really – the ball hit the ground, and the Broncos were able to get up to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball before Ravens coach John Harbaugh was able to decide whether on not to use his last challenge flag.
Manning (who threw the football) had the best seat in the house to make the call, and Welker had the second. And even though they might not be perfectly in step this early in the season, they both have one thing in common – they knew that was not a completion.
In no way am I going to suggest that we should get rid of challenges in the NFL. For the most part, they have done one hell of a job getting the right call made. I just think that the main reason that calls that are obviously poor still happen in the NFL is because who manages the game and who really makes the calls can be very confusing at times.
The easy take to have here is to simply say that the NFL referees don’t do a good enough job, which isn’t an incorrect statement. I wouldn’t be writing this if there wasn’t so much discussion about the officiating to begin with.
The referees are basically shirking responsibility onto the shoulders of the head coaches and coordinators when they make calls like the Welker drop. They’re saying: “We don’t feel as if this is important enough to look into right now, unless you want to go ahead and force us to” which in my opinion is really sketchy.
I also think that anyone who explains an error like that by saying “Well, Peyton Manning is going to gets calls like that” should be allowed to eat for the next month. This isn’t fucking basketball. There was no judgment call – the ball hit the ground. Everybody in the building knew it hit the ground but they didn’t want to look at it – Why? Because they would have to walk back there with their head in the sand realizing that they’re wrong?
In the NFL, the challenge is not supposed to be a strategic tool. If your gameplan is dependent on how and when you throw your challenge flag, you’re probably not even qualified to be third base coach in a work softball outing. The challenge assumes that there will only be so few shitty calls that two and a bonus one if you’re right about the first two ought to do it. It shouldn’t be so earth shattering at every turn.
That being said, that one play changed everything. And it would only have been Harbaugh’s last challenge flag because he had already called the refs out on a similar play where the refs gave Peyton the completion on that one. So that would have made two calls that Harbaugh was not responsible for pointing out were made incorrectly by people whose only job is to make sure those plays are examined upstairs.
To me, the whole thing just smacked of this very smug and deliberate ignoring of the fact that might not have been something that made Peyton Manning appear invincible. I hate favoritism in every walk of life (unless you count “White People Day” at Starbucks, WHICH I don’t…) and I especially hate it when the guy knows he’s getting away with one. And this is the fault of whoever is in charge of these officiating crews. They are very obviously putting favoritism ahead of getting shit right, and doing so by relying on some of these coaching staffs to police themselves. It shouldn’t be “you tell us” it should be “Let us tell you” when it comes to what’s really going on. It surprises me that more NFL refs don’t seem to be like the old school MLB umpires. For a bunch of guys who want to indirectly end up being the center of attention in a form of entertainment where they will never get the recognition they believe they deserve, I sure don’t see a lot of them getting in the face of a Rex Ryan or a Leslie Frazier.
Additionally, this truth will apparently never find it’s way to the broadcast booth. Resident NBC botox enthusiast Cris Collinsworth continued to mention that it was Baltimore’s failure to contest the calls, when in fact that was hardly the case. It’s not the responsibility of Harbaugh and/or his crew.
Stop blaming coaches for not catching poor calls that were made by officials who have a better look than they do. Coaches have enough shit to do with managing the pace of the game, and they HAVE to be able to have some sort of trust in the officials in order to keep the NFL as a smoothly run operation from week to week. Hell, some of these guys are even on the officiating committee.
I don’t really know what’s happening here. What I do know is that at some point, the referees severely misinterpreted their responsibility when it comes to control. They want certain control at points, and then when in their mind reviewing the play seems petty and inconvenient they toss it aside. And that’s why bad calls still happen in the NFL.