Two days after a game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers that was decided by multiple blown calls, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held off on committing to any changes to the league’s officiating processes.
Speaking at the conclusion of the NFL owners’ meeting in Florida, Goodell addressed a game that was the latest in a long line of questionably officiating.
From The Washington Post:
“Officiating is always a focus for us,” Goodell said Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-day NFL owners’ meeting. “I joke, but I’m not joking: I think I’m close to 40 years [in the league], and I think there’s always a two- or three-week period where there’s an intense focus on it. But, listen, you never want to see a game where people are talking about officials afterwards. It was a great football game played by two great teams. ... It’s tough. It’s tough to be in that situation.”
NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent has already conceded that one hands to the face flag thrown at Detroit during the Packers’ game-winning drive should not have been called.
That will, of course, do little to appease the many Lions fans frothing at the mouth over the game, including Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders and gaming star Ninja.
Goodell still said that attempting to eliminate such calls is a priority and is working with Vincent and NFL VP of officiating Al Riveron, though he noted that complaints about officiating are not a phenomenon isolated to football. From the Post:
“We have to do everything to improve officiating,” Goodell said. “Al’s team and Troy and everyone, we’re all focusing on how do we continue to prepare our officials, obviously using technology when we can. But that’s sports. You see it in every sport. We’ve seen it over the last several months. So I know when you go to other press conferences, you ask the same question.”
Even if other sports are dealing with questionable officiating (they are), the NFL is still facing a particularly prominent and self-created head-scratcher this year with its newly challengeable pass interference penalties.
Thanks to the debacle that was the end of the 2019 NFC championship game, every head coach in the league can now challenge pass interference calls and non-calls. And then they will likely lose the challenge upon further review by Riveron, who through six weeks has made it very clear that it will take an absurd level of certainty to change the call on the field. Requiring a high burden of proof to overturn a call or non-call might be the only way this system works, but even clear pass interference calls are being missed.
Coaches are already realizing they may as well as save their challenges. What was supposed to fix a regular problem in the NFL has only made it more frustrating. Maybe Riveron and the new rule will get their moment in the sun if history repeats itself in the playoffs and a terrible non-call can be remedied, but that’s a very specific hypothetical to justify a real and present problem.
That’s just one of the issues facing Goodell, Riveron and Vincent. Like a painfully obvious pass interference call, whether they can fix them is anyone’s guess.
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