How to Address The NFL’s Officiating Issues

How to Address The NFL’s Officiating Issues

By Ryan Hickey

New York, N.Y.- Monday night provided yet another platform for the biggest stars of the NFL season to help determine the outcome of a game, and I’m not referring to any players on the Packers or Lions. The officials stole the show yet again, injecting themselves into a game that eventually saw the Packers win the game on a Mason Crosby game-winning field goal as time expired.

The referees were front and center yet again due to a couple of brutal gaffs in the fourth quarter that helped keep the Packers hopes alive. Lions defensive lineman Trey Flowers was flagged for two “hands to the face” penalties in the fourth quarter that after a quick replay showed both plays were legal and the flag should have stayed off the field. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, admitted Tuesday that the second penalty on Flowers should not have been called, a too little too late consolation prize for Lions fans.  

Penalty flags have been flying at an alarming rate this season. As Paul Hembekides pointed out on twitter, there has been an extreme spike in flags per game this season. From 2016-2018, there were on average 15.8 penalties per game. In 2019, there have been 18.3, a jump of 2.5 extra flags per game. In Sunday’s Jets-Cowboys game, there was a penalty flag thrown on six consecutive plays. Six. Consecutive. Plays.

This is a trend the NFL can’t have. With the rules in place to protect players and world-class athletes training all year, the game has never seen a more talented group of players on the field. It should be these players whose jerseys we wear and social media handles we follow that determine the outcomes of games on the field.

Herein lies the true problem: a solution is easier said than done. One common fix tossed around is the addition of a “sky judge” to each game’s officiating crew, which would place an official in the booth to buzz down to the on-field refs to help correct any egregious calls made in real time.

Two issues I see with this are: 1) We’ve seen with the new pass interference challenge system that officials are rarely changing the call on the field. If referees are still deferring to the call made on the field, even if it’s obvious during the review that the wrong call was made, I don’t have much confidence that having an official in the booth buzzing down to correct any missed call would work all that differently 2) As the Washington Post points out, the NFL is leery that they could even find 17 qualified officials to fill these new jobs.

The only plausible solution I’ve come up with so far has been to re-train officials and insert a mindset that the less flags thrown per game the better. Part of the problem I believe is that it’s easier than ever to know if the call is right or wrong because television broadcasts can provide every angle of a questionable call. This has made trying to officiate a game harder than ever, as us fans on the couch sometimes have better angles than the referees do on the field.

I’d like to think I’m with the majority when I say I’d rather see a probable penalty not called than a phantom flag thrown to give an undeserving team a second chance. If refs are trained to stay out of the way and only throws flags for obvious penalties, the game will profit in the long run.

The setback with any solution is that it can’t fix the here-and-now problems of the 2019 season. Officiating is a fickle profession that relies on humans to make snap judgments without the benefit of replay like we have at home. The NFL knows this is a problem. It’s up to them to make sure the biggest headlines after the game are about the players on the field.

Jets vs. Patriots

While the third Sunday of the season in the NFL is not significant to many opponents, it is for the Patriots and Jets. For New England, it forever changed their history, nevermind reshaping the entire sport’s image of Boston. While for the Jets, it leaves the question “what if?”

The United States was still in mourning when the Jets traveled to Foxboro Stadium on September 23, 2001. Trailing 10-3 with 5:11 left in the 4th quarter, the Patriots faced a third down and ten from their 19-yard line.

After losing in Week 1, Drew Bledsoe knew to start 0-2 with losses to the downtrodden Bengals and Jets, might start the clock ticking towards changes. The same worries faced second-year Head Coach Bill Belichick, who was now about to fall to 5-13 since resigning on a napkin as HC of the NYJ. As Bledsoe took off from the pocket and tried to run for the first down, little did he know he was about to change team history forever.

THE BRADY ERA

What began for the New England Patriots that day (internal injuries to Bledsoe were more severe than initially thought) is still going strong.

The New York Jets and Mo Lewis had no idea that the player that took over the Patriots franchise quarterback was the true franchise quarterback.

Since that day, the world of professional football has witnessed the greatest player ever to take the field. The Patriots have won just under 80 percent of all their regular-season games since Brady took over for Bledsoe on September 23, 2001.

New England currently has streaks of eight consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances, ten AFC East division titles, and 16 seasons with ten or more wins. The Jets division title in 2002 was the only blemish in Brady’s resume, as the Patriots have won the AFC East in 16 of his 17 full seasons. Brady missed all but the first half of the season opener in 2008, and despite winning 11 games, the Patriots did not qualify for the postseason.

NUMBERS vs. BRADY

Since the numbers with Brady at the helm are so dominant, it is not fair for me to compare the Jets over the same period. To show just how dominant Brady has been, I gave the Jets a fair shot by going back to the start of the 1988 season. In essence, I am comparing the last 31 New York Jets regular seasons to Tom Brady’s career, which spans 17 seasons. I did include postseason numbers for both parties.

Since making his first NFL start on September 30, 2001, Brady has started 309 games, postseason included. During that time, he has won 239 games and thrown for 595 total touchdowns.

Since the start of the 1988 season, the NY Jets have played in 513 games (postseason included). Over that time, they have won 225 games and thrown 601 touchdown passes.

Despite playing 204 fewer games, Brady has won 14 more games and thrown just five fewer TD passes than the entire Jets franchise since 1988.

The Jets will be entering New England a wounded animal, having lost the first two games of 2019 and without starting QB Sam Darnold. Meanwhile, the Patriots look to keep rolling with 42-year old Brady at the helm. The Patriots have outscored their first two opponents, the Steelers, and Dolphins, by a combined score of 76-3. The Patriots +73 point differential in the first two games of the season third-best in NFL history. Only the 1970 Detroit Lions (+75) and 1975 Washington Redskins (+74), have outscored their opponents by a wider margin in the seasons first two games.

Sunday will be Brady’s 36th career start against the Jets (postseason included). He is 28-7 (.800) overall, including a 15-3 record at Gillette Stadium. Overall Brady has thrown for 58 career TD against the Jets (30 at home) compared to just 15 interceptions (5 at home). Brady has averaged 245 yards per game passing overall (244 at home) and completed just under 62 percent of his passes.

The Jets have lost eight straight games, including 11 consecutive in the regular season against New England at home. Brady and the Pats have been exceptionally cruel to their divisional rivals in their last three matchups, outscoring them 105-12.

The last time the Jets left victorious at Gillette Stadium was the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoffs, when they stunned Brady and Belichick, 28-21. The last time Gang Green won at New England during the regular season was in 2006.

The excellent news for Gang Green is that a bye week lay in waiting during Week 4. The gives the Jets a chance to lick their wounds before they head to Philadelphia – a franchise they are 0-10 against – when they return.

Chris Klim Mock Draft 2.0

Chris Klim Mock Draft 2.0

            Okay, I did my first official mock draft a little over a month ago. In that time, teams have franchise tagged players, cut players, and traded players. The NFL combine also happened and I wanted to do this mock draft before the free agency started. There will be a third when the free agency starts, don’t worry.

  1. Cardinals-N. Bosa DE Ohio
  2. 49ers-D. Metcalf WR Ole Miss
  3. Jets-J. Taylor OT Florida
  4. Raiders-G. Williams CB LSU
  5. Buccaneers-J. Allen OLB Kentucky
  6. Giants-D. Haskins QB Ohio State
  7. Jaguars-A. Brown WR Ole Miss
  8. Lions-Q. Williams DT Alabama
  9. Bills-G. Little OT Ole Miss
  10. Broncos-J. Williams OT Alabama
  11. Bengals-D. White ILB LSU
  12. Packers-R. Gary DE Michigan
  13. Dolphins-K. Murray QB Oklahoma
  14. Falcons-B. Murphy CB Washington
  15. Redskins-M. Brown WR Oklahoma
  16. Panthers-M. Sweat DE Mississippi State
  17. Browns-E. Oliver DT Houston
  18. Vikings-J. Simmons DT Mississippi State
  19. Titans-C. Ferrell DE Clemson
  20. Steelers-D. Baker CB Georgia
  21. Seahawks-J. Polite OLB Florida
  22. Ravens-D. Thompson S Alabama
  23. Texans-C. Ford OT Oklahoma
  24. Raiders-P. Campbell WR Ohio State
  25. Eagles-J. Love CB Notre Dame
  26. Colts-J. Tillery DT Notre Dame
  27. Raiders-J. Ferguson DE Louisiana Tech
  28. Chargers-C. Wilkins DT Clemson
  29. Chiefs-B. Burns OLB Florida State
  30. Packers-J. Jacobs RB Alabama
  31. Rams-T. Hockenson TE Iowa
  32. Patriots-D. Lock