Referees are a necessary part of any sporting event. It’s just unfortunate how they sometimes become the focal point of contests. This is apparent in far too many NFL games every week, and it’s at a point where some of their calls are absolutely absurd. NFL refs are constantly throwing flags that make-or-break games when sometimes they need to step aside and let the game play out.
There were two big plays that officials fumbled in Sunday Night’s showdown between the Giants and Commanders that had significant playoff implications. These teams are slotted in the final two NFC Wild Card slots, so this game was one of the most important of the season. On the game’s last drive, with Washington down by eight points, the Commanders had driven down the field and had a chance to score inside the one-yard line.
For the official to call an illegal formation on this play that was a touchdown for Washington is despicable. Commanders’ wide receiver Terry McLaurin looks to the ref before the snap to make sure he’s lined up properly and got what he thought was the OK. Calling this penalty is nitpicking down to the smallest detail, which is great in other situations but not here. McLaurin had nothing to do with the outcome of the play.
What makes this lousy call even more glaring is that the next play should’ve been defensive pass interference in the end zone on New York, but instead, the officials decided to swallow their whistles on this one. This was obviously pass interference, as the Giants’ defender is hugging the Commanders’ receiver well before the ball arrives. This was noticeable in real time. Forget about the slow-motion instant replay. It sucks to lose a game on two horrible calls by the refs, and afterward, they aren’t held accountable for their actions. At least not publicly.
On Saturday, there was another blown call that nearly cost a team the game, but the Vikings were able to overcome that goof by officials. Even in that scrum, you could see that Colts running back Deon Jackson was still up when the ball came out of his arms. The ref positioned behind the line of scrimmage should’ve been able to see that, but maybe his view was obstructed. Since the ball can’t be advanced on an overturned play that negated a touchdown, that might have prevented the game from even going to overtime. This is yet another example of the zebras constantly getting it wrong and costing teams points and victories.
The NFL does evaluate each official after every game, and they can be written up for bad calls or being out of position on plays. This should be something made public that refs have to answer for when they screw up so egregiously. Players and coaches have their work publicly scrutinized, as do the media. Officials get to go hide after making bad calls and never even have to apologize when they make obvious bad calls. The NFL will make a statement for some of those horrible calls, but the refs are protected from criticism.
Football games move fast, and there’s always human error involved. But with such high stakes in the NFL, you want to get the right call as often as possible. In the past couple of years, it seems officials have blown more calls than we’ve seen in a very long time. We’re asking the league to clean that up and make refs take accountability after the fact. Making some calls that aren’t able to be challenged, and eligible for a challenge would be a start. Something needs to be done because the refs are ruining these games way too often.