Sep 282012

Here is an open letter from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to fans that was issued this morning by the league. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

To NFL Fans:

The National Football League is at its best when the focus is on the players and the action on the field, not on labor negotiations.

All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do.

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment, but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next.

I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.

As a lifelong fan, this wasn’t an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances.

Our new agreement gives long-term stability to an important aspect of our game, officiating. More important, with this agreement, officiating will be better in the long run. While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms. For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games.

We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. It’s time to put the focus where it belongs – on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.

Roger Goodell

I believe I have already spoken my peace (twice) about the Commissioner. While he professes to believe in “accountability”, I question what real accountability he is facing. This Commissioner holds himself above the game, above the players, above the officials, and above the fans. But as long as he has the support of the owners there will be no real accountability for Roger Goodell.

Sep 272012

Sometimes I wonder what the criteria are for being censored on Pro Football Talk are… besides what NBC has told me when I have written in seeking clarification, since about three out of every five posts I make seem to vanish into the abyss of the internet. According to NBC, moderating comments is not an exact science (no kidding), but they look for the following criteria… curse words, attacks on others, religious and other non-football posts, and external links are all criteria for getting a post to PFT deleted. That seems like pretty solid criteria to me, and is very consistent with what we use at GiR.

So how does this relate to the subject?

This morning Mike Florio of PFT wrote a post stating that, instead of criticism, Commissioner Roger Goodell actually deserves a raise. As you can imagine, most of the seventy-plus comments currently showing up are rather critical of Florio, and most are critical of Goodell as well. What I wrote was very close to the following:

I just lost a lot of respect for you, Mike. You have said a lot of things on your site over the years that I have disagreed with, but this is the least founded yet…

I went on to say, as I said on this site yesterday, that I thought Goodell should resign. I did so without curse words, personal attacks, religious or political commentary, or any third party link. Yet my post was immediately deleted by NBC, despite the presence of posts at least as strong as the one I wrote.

I will start by saying that I love PFT, and find it to be an excellent source of news and inspiration. But since Mike Florio’s NBC crew doesn’t find it appropriate for me to comment on his opinions on the site they control, let’s review his commentary on a site that we control.

At 8:48 am EDT, Florio posted an article entitled, “Goodell deserves a raise, not ridicule“. This brief article (with accompanying video) stated that Commissioner Goodell was serving more as a minion of the owners than a steward of the game with regard to the official’s lockout, and that criticism should really be directed to the owners who held up real negotiations (my phrasing).

Then at 1:32 pm EDT, apparently in response to some of the criticism generated from his first posting, Florio felt the need to justify his position. His second article (“Owners skirt blame for officials debacle“) focused on what a difficult position Goodell is in by having to provide cover to the thirty-two owners. And thus, Goodell still deserves a raise.

I am thinking that Mike Florio is missing the point, and since I am apparently not allowed to explain it at PFT, I will inflict it on our readers (yes, both of you).

Florio is correct in asserting that Goodell has a tough job in representing thirty-two guys who can afford to wipe with hundred dollar bills. I get that, and I get that working for people like that would be no picnic. So fine… he did the owners a favor by taking the heat and being a convenient villain.

But Florio errs in placing all of the responsibility for this mess on the owners. While the owners were the ones fighting to hold on to every dollar that they could, it was the Commissioner’s agenda to make the accountability of officials a central issue, at a horrible time. You want to talk about accountability? Fine, then do so with enough advance notice to the officials that it is not bogging down a negotiation as the camps open, as the pre-season games are played, or as the first three weeks of the year are entered into the books. Because of his poor negotiation strategy, Goodell achieved only a fraction of his stated agenda, because he had destroyed trust with the Referee’s Association. It’s impossible to negotiate in good faith if you don’t believe that the “other side” is negotiating in good faith, and that is the dynamic that Roger Goodell created.

Second, and far more importantly, Goodell committed a horrific situation for players, coaches, and fans by failing to adequately plan for a lockout. The league saw this situation coming a long time ago, and it was Roger Goodell’s responsibility, not that of the owners, to work to line up qualified officials in the event of a work stoppage or lockout. By failing to do that, Goodell and his own minions had to scramble to throw warm bodies onto the field, including people who were not deemed qualified enough to officiate for the freaking Lingerie Football League. Seriously.

Therefore, it is the fault of the Commissioner, not the owners directly, that the brand of NFL football was compromised and the integrity of the game cast aside. The league would have been able to weather a lockout far better had the Commissioner planned in advance for what some were warning was an inevitable lockout of the officials. As a result, the outcomes of multiple games were gently or heavily influenced by people who had no business being on the field officiating a game. But Mike Florio glosses over these points just because Roger Goodell works for a bunch of rich pains in the asses.

Florio stated in the second article that his intent was to make his readers think. I can see his perspective on this. But for Florio to come out so strongly for the Commissioner and blame the owners, while giving Goodell a pass on the things he could and should have done, strikes me as strange at the very least. In my view, letting the Commissioner off of the hook is inexcusable. Roger Goodell controlled the preparations that the league did or did not make, and he chose to push an agenda item that served to help stall talks and diminish trust. Saying he deserves a raise is ridiculous; Roger Goodell has loss the confidence of many players and many more fans, particularly when you add his mishandling of the player lockout in 2011, his unequal treatment of player discipline, and his botching of the Saints’ bounty case . Roger Goodell may well have job security through the end of this decade, but he should still step down as NFL Commissioner. It won’t happen, but it should.

Sep 262012

So it looks like the real NFL officials are coming back to work…

Am I too into this sport that I actually felt my blood pressure drop when I heard Chris Mortensen on ESPN this morning? Maybe, maybe not. I know I felt my blood pressure rise on Sunday night when phantom call after phantom call penalized the Patriots and turned the hole they had dug for themselves even deeper. But then Monday night took the cake when I watched the replacement officials quite literally hand a game to the Seattle Seahawks. So thank you to the Green Bay Packers for taking one for the league and for the fans, because it would appear that the nightmare scenario of the replacement refs giving a game away was what it took to prompt the NFL to come to an agreement.

Roger Goodell and the owners who refused to compromise with the officials should be ashamed of themselves. Not so much because the lockout took place, but because they knew a lockout was coming and did nothing… absolutely nothing… to prepare for it. Instead of preparing to use Division I officials months in advance, the league sat on its collective ass until the arrival of the lockout, and then filled the gaps with people who had actually been dismissed from the Lingerie Football League for being poor officials, as well as high school and low level college officials. Such a failure to prepare is unacceptable for people that are running a multi-billion dollar industry. And the NFL will wear a big smile on its collective face and act like the league did the right thing for the game, when in actuality they did nearly everything wrong. And no one will be held accountable.

For those with short memories, the 2011 season was nearly destroyed because the NFL allowed its lawyers to posture and posture and posture with the players, playing a PR game instead of negotiating in good faith. Only when Robert Kraft and a few others stepped in (and kicked the attorneys out) was progress made and an agreement reached. It took the efforts of reasonable people to get a deal done in 2011, and I don’t consider Roger Goodell to be one of those reasonable people. While I had previously been a fan of Goodell’s “get tough on player misconduct” approach, even that has not been done in an even handed and consistent way, and the recent striking down of Goodells’ bounty sanctions against several players indicate that he is not one to follow proper protocol or overly worry about due process. While I am convinced that the Saints did something wrong in terms of payment for injury, I am equally convinced that Goodell botched the process and de-legitimized the league’s response to very serious misconduct.

To paint with a broad brush, my recent impression of Roger Goodell is that he is a power-hungry dictator who approaches all matters with a “my way or the highway” approach. And while Goodell excels at bleeding every dollar of profit that he can for the NFL, he is inept at forming relationships, partnerships, and acting as a true ambassador of the game. To try and be fair to Goodell, he is exactly the type of executive that many of the owners wanted, and he was hired to manage in the way that he is. I have no doubt that owner confidence in Goodell is still high. But player confidence and fan confidence in the Commissioner have seemingly been eroding for some time, and Goodell’s willingness to sit idly by while the integrity of the game was laid waste for these past three weeks – all for the purpose of breaking the referee’s union – calls into question Goodell’s true commitment to player safety and his fitness to serve as the NFL Commissioner. It was Roger Goodell’s agenda, not the agenda of the owners, to improve officiating, and the net result of Goodell’s actions will be no significantly improved officiating while sacrificing three weeks of an NFL season to sub-standard… no… piss poor officiating. It is my hope that Commissioner Goodelll’s actions, and worse his inaction in preparing for a lockout, will lose enough of the confidence of league owners to push for his resignation. I won’t hold my breath waiting for it, but I do have a birthday coming up…

Side Notes:

– Another long-held grudge against the NFL’s business practices… In 2004, EA signed an exclusive license through 2009 with the NFL and the NFLPA to give the company the exclusive rights to use the NFL’s teams, stadiums, and players in a video game. This exclusive license prevents other official NFL video games. The deal, reportedly worth $300 million and later extended to 2013, has been widely criticized as it created a monopoly for NFL gaming and squashed competitive NFL game platforms. To make matters worse, since Madden ’08, EA Sports has not bothered to release a pc version of the game due to lower sales than platforms such as XBox, PS3, and Wii, computer gamers have been without an NFL product to enjoy. The league could care less, and EA Sports has no plans to reverse course. Thus, those of us who have high-performing pc systems with superior graphics who enjoyed the strategy of NFL football are left to want. It’s no wonder that I haven’t bought an EA product in five years.

– Thanks to all of the new visitors we have had to the site during the officials’ lockout. Our site hits have soared, particularly as we called for a boycott on October 4th, which will be off if they get the deal done later today or tomorrow. I rather suspect that it will get done after the Monday night debacle. Anyway, we had no desire for glory in calling for the boycott, but if we have a platform to help fans mobilize, then we should use it if the game we love is being negatively impacted. Thanks to those of you who assisted with our boycott preparations, most notably our Twitter followers and Mike at Patriots Life. We’re not sure yet, but it looks like we’ll go back to being a sleepy little NFL fan blog… and we are just fine with that!

Sep 262012

This is what I get for going to sleep for a few hours on a day home from work. I wake up, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that a deal is imminent and that real NFL officials will be back on the field this weekend.

Thank goodness.

Let’s see… all it took was for a game to be decided wrongly by a substitute official and a host of other games whose games were heavily influenced by poor officiating. There will be those who will say the entire season needs to be marked with an asterisk, but if 13 of the 16 regular season games are officiated by competent and qualified crews, it seems to me that the onus of making it to the playoffs is now solely on the coaches and players, so keep your asterisks at bay.

So what will the agreement look like? According to Mort, there was compromise on the 401K pool and the development of a developmental taxi squad of NCAA officials to replace retiring officials. Financial details are not yet available because the agreement hasn’t been signed.

There is still a possibility that the replacement officials may still be working this Thursday night when the Browns visit the Ravens.

More details as they become available.

UPDATE: The deal was finalized late last night. Here are the details of the agreement, as reported by ESPN:

The tentative eight-year deal is the longest involving on-field officials in NFL history and was reached with the assistance of two federal mediators. It must be ratified by 51 percent of the union’s 121 members, who plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.

The agreement hinged on working out salary, pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. Tentatively, it calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Under the proposal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years of service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.

Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year round, including on the field. The NFL also will be able to retain additional officials for training and development, and can assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.

Sep 252012


Obviously with the officials’ lockout resolved, we are calling off any plans to boycott the NFL Network on October 4th. As you will note from some of the other posts on this site, we are not particularly pleased with Commissioner Goodell’s handling of the lockout, but glad that the officials are back in place, which was the point behind a boycott.

Thanks to all who supported our call for fan action!


Enough is enough.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell might be going through the motions to give the appearance that the NFL is seriously negotiating with the NFLRA, but it is clear that they are more determined to break the union than to maintain the integrity of the game that we love as fans.

Gridiron Rats is now calling on fans to step up and hit the NFL where it counts; in the wallet.

We are asking that all National Football League fans boycott the NFL Network on Thursday, October 4, including the airing of the Cardinals – Rams game on Thursday night. There is only one game on that night, and perhaps if the NFL takes a ratings hit and  grief from its sponsors, then they might actually get serious about putting the real officials back on the field.

Please share this call widely. If we can unite as fans we may be able to make the point that the NFL cannot continue to jeopardize the outcomes of games and the safety of players. We want the integrity of the NFL restored, and to see the product that we have come to know and love as NFL fans.

Our goal is to see the game restored and to see the proper NFL officials on the field. If the NFL can come to a resolution by October 4, then this boycott will be canceled. Otherwise, we ask you to stand with us as fans.

Sep 252012

I grew up watching a variety of sporting events. One of the things I always appreciated was listening to the post game radio interview after a basketball game, and hearing a basketball coach refuse to blame the loss on an official’s call, or a missed free throw, shot or lay-up that had occurred at the end of the game. The coach on these occasions would point out that the failure to make plays at key moments throughout the game was the cause of the loss as opposed to an official’s call, a missed free throw, or a missed shot at the end of the game. Thus, potentially one of the most frustrating and disappointing things to come out of last night’s game is the opinion that this game was stolen from the Packers. I disagree with this popular sentiment.

The Seattle Seahawks are a gritty, tough, team, and they are a lot of fun to watch. The Seahawks are a play or two away from being 3-0. Who was not impressed by the inspired play of the Seahawk defense, and their plucky quarterback, rookie Russell Wilson? In addition, Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate were nearly equally as impressive. Consequently, the Seahawks collectively won this game, and let’s give credit where it is due.

In contrast, can the same thing be said about the play of the Green Bay Packers? Giving up eight sacks in one half of play is inexcusable. Yes, Mike McCarthy and his staff made some much needed adjustments at halftime. Further, the much maligned Packer defense has suddenly become a bright spot for the team. The Packers played winning defense, and Aaron Rodgers rendered the type of second half performance that we are used to seeing from him.

However, where was the Packer offensive line in the first half? The tackles were consistently abused and exposed throughout the first half, and the offensive line as a unit delivered a miserable performance. The unit improved its play in the second half, but was the damage already done? In the aftermath of the game, though, rather than some of the Packer linemen acknowledging that they could have played better, these players opted to blame the replacement officials and the NFL for the loss.

I will acknowledge that I am highly critical of Roger Goodell’s handling of this matter. It is my opinion that there has been a lack of leadership on his part in addressing and ultimately resolving this matter. The game and its reputation are being damaged given that it is apparent to all that the lack of quality officiating is damaging the brand of football that we have grown accustomed to watching.
This point is reinforced by what happened last night. Rather than acknowledging the fact that the best team last night won the game, we are blaming the officiating for the Packer loss. Based upon what I witnessed, the Seahawks were the better team and they won the game by virtue of being the better team last night. When it comes down to it, the Packers have no one to blame but themselves for the loss. If the Packers had made more plays throughout the game, the Packers would have won that game going away.

Yes, the failure of the officials union and the NFL to reach an agreement is ruining the game we love. This issue needs to be resolved today. As opposed to discussing what was a great football game last night, played by two pretty good to potentially really good teams, we are blaming the officials for a loss. This is not fair to the Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers and football fans as a whole.

Sep 252012

If the Baltimore win over New England was influenced by sub-par officiating, then the Seattle win over Green Bay was downright decided by it.

A replacement referee ruled that Golden Tate maintained simultaneous control of a last second 24-yard Hail Mary by Russell Wilson with Packers defender MD Jennings and ruled the play a touchdown, lifting the Seahawks to a thrilling 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers Monday night.

The only trouble with the call? There was never simultaneous control. Rather, it was clear on replay that Jennings first had possession of the ball and that Tate then fought to gain joint possession of the ball. A second official properly ruled the play an interception but was overruled on the field.

According to the NFL Rulebook,

If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.

Unless you are a Seahawks fan, this video can only show that Jennings secured control of the ball and even turned away from Tate before Tate was able to anchor an arm on the ball to establish mutual possession (not control).

Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy refused to discuss the officiating, limiting his comments to, “I was told M.D. Jennings had the ball. I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years in football.” Quarterback Aaron Rodgers took the subject on right away. “”It was awful. Just look at the replay. And then the fact that it was reviewed, it was awful,” Rodgers said. “That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

There was some dispute after the game as to whether or not the ruling was subject to review, though one would suspect that because all scoring plays are reviewed, the call could and should have been made to rule the play an interception. That was not done however, and it took the teams a full ten minutes to return to the field to complete the required extra point in order to end the game.

The play ruined what was otherwise an extraordinary football game that, while it suffered from some abysmal calls, was a fair and hard fought battle dominated by the Seahawks defense until the Packers struck late to take the lead. The Seahawks were able to pin the Packers deep in their own territory and force a punt, setting up the Seahawks in Packers territory to start the final drive. The Hail Mary occurred on fourth down, and Golden Tate got away with an incredibly obvious offensive pass interference in the end zone that also should have negated the play. While offensive pass interference is rarely called in such situations, this play was obvious to a blind chipmunk living in Maine watching the game on the radio. Unfortunately for the Packers, the chipmunk was not officiating the game.

The game’s bizarre ending had the ESPN analysts going off again, a scant one week after Steve Young’s justified tirade against the league. Tonight both Young and Trent Dilfer spoke eloquently about the harm that the league is doing to the game, and the insult that the league is paying to the fans, players, and former players. As Young noted, the league is destroying the esteemed place that the NFL holds in professional sports, all for the sake of beating the union and controlling the officials. In the interest of saving money and asserting dictatorial control, the league seems willing to demean its own product and render the games meaningless.

Sixteen hours of talks took place over the weekend with the involvement of both Commissioner Goodell and a federal mediator, but the talks broke down. Word is that the NFL is now trying to re-ignite talks, likely in the wake of a disastrous weekend for the replacement officials. But the NFL sent a memo to its clubs updating teams on the progress of the talks, which unfortunately read like a press release justifying the stance of the league, according to Pro Football Talk. Coupled with the revelation that the league has resisted the desire of players to have concussion experts on the sidelines, it is clear that Goodell’s proclamations about the importance and value of player safety are hollow, and the NFL is willing to sacrifice both the integrity of the game and the safety of the players on the field to maximize its own profits.

While I hope that the situation can be resolved with a positive outcome in the near future, all games played with replacement officials are a continued disgrace to the league. These officials are not going to get better, and the evidence suggests that the situation is getting worse by the game. Roger Goodell’s legacy is quickly being reduced to a monumental joke and one must begin to wonder that if this situation does not get resolved soon, if it is time not only for players, coaches and fans to call for a resolution to the lockout, but also call for the resignation of Roger Goodell.

And I imagine that nearly the entire state of Wisconsin is ready to sign the petition. I’m pretty sure they already have one circulating in Louisiana.

Sep 182012

The National Football League and Commissioner Roger Gooddell are determined to break the spirit and the will of the National Football League Referees Association. Like a business magnate trying to squash a labor union, the NFL is doing everything in its power to turn this contract dispute into a power play for control. In their quest to win this battle, both the product on the field and the safety of the players are being sacrificed, and the NFL doesn’t care.

As Steve Young noted following the Falcons-Broncos game that was a travesty of officiating, the NFL knows that demand for its product is so high that it can’t lose its fight. Fans continue to flock to the game in the stadiums and on television, and the dollars roll in. Sure we complain about what we see on the field, but as fans and consumers we have so fed the beast that it now is above accountablity, and well beyond reason.

According to Young, “How do I start here? I can say this because the league officials have gone to sleep. Lemme just go right at this: There’s a lot of people in the league who would rather break the union. There’s a lot of people who don’t feel like the officiating is on-field personnel, they feel like it’s a commodity. But more importantly, everything about the NFL now, it’s inelastic for demand. There’s nothing that they can do to hurt the demand for the game. So the bottom line is, they don’t care. Player safety? Doesn’t matter in this case. Bring the Division 3 officials? Doesn’t matter. Because in the end, you’re still gonna watch the game, we’re gonna all complain and moan, and gripe and say there’s all these problems, and all the coaches will say it, the players will say it… Doesn’t matter. So just go ahead, gripe all you want, I’m gonna rest. Let them eat cake.” Young then went on to say, “…It’s inelastic. There’s nothing that changes the demand for the NFL. So they want to break the union, they want to send a message to them, they don’t care about player safety in the case of bringing in Division 3 officials, because it doesn’t affect the desire for the game. If it affected the desire for the game, they’d come up with a few million dollars.”

While the first week of the season passed with only a few officiating gaffes, Week Two was simply a disaster, from top to bottom. And it is not likely to get better. The replacement officials are truly not to blame; they are doing the best job they possibly can, but they are not equipped to be doing that job at all. The players are learning what they can get away with, and they challenge the replacement officials for control of the game at every turn. In two games this weekend, including the Monday night disaster, officials completely lost all semblance of control over the game they were officiating, and the Monday night game in particular became a contest of wills between the officials and Broncos’ Head Coach John Fox.

The two sides are believed to now be only hundreds of thousands of dollars apart in terms of financial considerations, and perhaps further in terms of the accountability of officials. But the NFL is refusing to negotiate, knowing that it can simply sit back and wait out the union, ready to claim victory when the union eventually caves in to league demands, and we as fans, hungry for the game we love, are unwittingly facilitating this union busting.

I got on Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco pretty hard for their comments following Sunday’s loss, because I felt they were transferring responsibility for their own poor performance unjustly onto the officials, plus Lewis was dead wrong about one of the calls he was angry about. But that doesn’t mean the game was officiated well, or that Flacco’s and Lewis’ broader point isn’t spot on. Better taken were the comments of Giants’ defenders Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck, who had the benefit of complaining after a victory, and in putting responsibility where it belonged – on Roger Goodell’s shoulders. “There’s no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there,” Kiwanuka told the New York Daily News. “We’ve got to get that taken care of.” Justin Tuck agreed. “I am not necessarily mad at the replacement officials,” said Tuck. “I am more upset with the NFL for not handling this and taking care of this in due time.”

The players should be upset with Goodell, as should fans. For all that Goodell has done to promote player safety, it now rings hollow with his decision to place money and personal agendas ahead of the safety he has trumpeted. Goodell sees himself as untouchable and unimpeachable, and is thumbing his nose not just at the officials, but at the players and the fans as well.

It’s a good thing that the NFL is not a publicly traded business. If it were, I think I know more than a few shareholders who would be calling for a vote of “No Confidence” in our CEO. Goodell is hurting the integrity of the game, putting players in physical jeopardy, and is insulting the NFL fan base. It’s a sad state of events, and while I would like to hold out hope that both parties will appeal to reason and be reasonable, I fear the NFL is well past the point of no return in its desires to strip the officials of their leverage, while depriving fans the best possible product.

Finally, to paraphrase my step-daughter, here’s a little rhyme for Roger Goodell to consider:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Rhyming is hard
So pay the zebras!

Sep 172012

The Baltimore Ravens were just full of quotes after their painful 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The target of their crowing was the poor officiating throughout the game.

According to Joe Flacco:

“I think those guys were on us tight like that the whole game and there was a lot of holding and grabbing going on … for them to make that (offensive pass interference) call was kind of crazy,” said Flacco. “He didn’t even throw a flag. He threw a blue beanie and then put his hands in the air like offensive pass interference…I mean, come on.” According to the New York Post, Flacco said after the game that the replacement refs are “affecting the integrity of the game.” Flacco said he hates complaining because he doesn’t want to “sound like a baby,” but that it needed to be said.

And this from Ray Lewis:

“The game is played the way the game is played, but there’s some serious calls the refs missed,” Lewis said after the game. “And that’s just the way it is, man, all around the league. And that, for our league to be what it is, we have to correct that. Because these games are critical. And guys are giving everything they got all across the league, but there are calls that the regular refs, if they were here, we know the way calls would be made. For the conversations to be had the way they had on the sidelines saying ‘If the real refs were here, that could would have been made.’ That shouldn’t happen. That shouldn’t be the case around the league. But it is. And we have to deal with it.”

Ray Lewis on NFL Officiating

I have two reactions to the Ravens’ crowing. First, both Flacco and Lewis are right; the officiating on Sunday sucked all across the NFL. This is a problem that really does impact the integrity of the game, and the NFL is very close to sabotaging its own product on the field. Lewis made that point far more eloquently than Flacco did, but that leads to my second point.

Both men must realize that sounding off as they did following a Ravens’ loss, was simply not that bright. Flacco said he didn’t want to “sound like a baby”, yet that’s exactly what Flacco sounded like. What seems lost on Flacco is that the officials made poor calls both ways, and the officials were not the ones responsible for Flacco’s fumble that set up an Eagles’ touchdown, nor were they responsible for his interception that also led to an Eagles’ touchdown. Flacco was a mere 22 for 42 on the day, so coming out and blasting the refs for doing a crap job is a little like the pot calling the kettle black. Take responsibility for yourself, Joe.

Lewis was more on point by noting that all payers across the league were dealing with poor officiating, and that it impacted everyone. However, he made the mistake of isolating one play (and his interpretation of it) as a specific cause of concern. That was not wise, given the play may not have been what Lewis thought it was. Lewis would have been better off to decline comment on the topic, given the fact that the Ravens’ could gain nothing by complaining about the officiating after a loss.

And while John Harbaugh referred to the officiating in the game as “chaotic” (a much more benign term than Flacco used), he at least had the good sense to accept criticism for some questionable play-calling on the part of the Ravens’ offense. And at the end of the day, no matter how bad the officiating, the Raven’s had more control over whether or not they won the game than the officials did.

The best comment on the day over officiating came from the NFL’s former Vice President for Officiating Mike Pereira, when he tweeted “I’m officially over it. The regular refs need to get back on the field. Enough is enough.”

Amen, Mike. And at least you didn’t say it after a loss.

Sep 102012

It was really nice to have football back on my television this weekend after a seven month wait. Football season has taken on a new meaning for me with the invention of Gridiron Rats, as I live blogged the Patriots game while doing my best to stay on top of the other action (thank you, DirecTV). Here are some of my early take-aways from Week One, with Monday night games still on the way.

1. The officiating was not good. There were many blunders in the 49ers-Packers game, and in the Broncos-Steelers contest last night. Some were benign, like misplacing the two minute warning in the Broncos’ game, while others were rather impactful. Tennessee fans in particular might be upset today that Jake Locker got hurt on a play that should have been blown dead and likely would have been with regular officials. Peyton Manning also got burned by the officials on a play that was vintage Peyton and should have worked to his advantage. He quick-snapped the Steelers, who had players still rotating off of the field. With regular officials that would have resulted in a free play and a penalty, but the replacement officials didn’t see it. I guess Peyton has to dumb his game down until the replacement officials can catch up. And there was a particularly bad call over a fourth timeout in the Seattle-Arizona game that was not only wrong, but then explained incorrectly. In any event, Mike Pereira can make a living off of criticizing the new officials, and anyone with the NFL who says that the replacement officials are adequate should probably be drug tested.

2. The Jets shocked everyone yesterday by scoring 20 points in the second quarter on their way to a 48-28 blowout win over the Bills. this tells us two things; that the Jets offense isn’t as bad as it looked in the pre-season, and that the Bills’ defense isn’t nearly as good as advertised. Clearly, Mark Sanchez needed a game like this to keep the boo-birds at bay and the cries for Tebow at a minimum. Yet in every silver lining, the Jets manage to find (or create) a dark cloud. After the game, linebacker Bart Scott teed off on the media, calling for a “media mutiny”.  When approached by a reporter, Scott opened up.

“You guys treat us like we’re a (bleeping) joke,” Scott said. “You all want us to feed your papers, but then you all talk (bleep) about us. So why would I want to give you all quotes to sell papers with if you all treat us like (bleep)? That doesn’t make sense. You all talk stuff about us, and then when we win you flip the story. You all win either way. I’m just going to be quiet.”

Where do I begin with Scott? First off, genius, I am pretty sure you mean “boycott” and not “mutiny”. I will refrain from commenting on his Southern Illinois University education, as someone very close to me holds a degree from that school, and I do happen to believe that it offers an outstanding education. Perhaps Scott slept through any classes in high school or college that might have included any vocabulary terms. And his frustration about the Jets’ being treated like a circus rings hollow with me. Why? The Jets act like a circus, which is ultimately what led to them being treated like one by the media.  This is the dark side of life with Rex Ryan, and Scott just doesn’t seem to comprehend that the New York Jets ARE a circus, even by New York media standards. Finally, on Scott’s final point that he will just keep quiet… from his mouth to God’s ears, my friend… can’t wait!

3. It’s going to be a long season and we have only seen Week One, but after yesterday I am absolutely convinced (as I was throughout the pre-season) that the Patriots’ defense is far more improved than that of the Packers. I realize that Jones and Hightower are only one game in, and that teams will learn to scheme against them, but with players like Wilfork, Mayo, Cunningham, Spikes, and McCourty on the field, there are plenty of players to make big plays. The Patriots suffocated Chris Johnson and look to have one of the league’s best run defenses. They might still give up a lot of yards, but I suspect there will be a lot of garbage time passing yards once again as the Patriots establish early leads and force teams to  throw, throw, and throw. The Packers were the fashionable Super Bowl pick this year with the rationale that an improved defense would be enough to vault them to another crown, but it’s the Patriots defense that looks far more improved, at least at this point of the year…. there’s a long way to go.

4. Speaking of the Patriots, I am of the opinion that Wes Welker is on his way out of Foxboro, and sooner rather than later. I noted yesterday that he was a non-factor in the game, catching only three passes for 14 yards. What I didn’t realize yesterday was that he was schemed out of the game, splitting his snaps with Julian Edelman, who caught one pass for seven yards. But it is the addition of the promising young slot receiver Greg Salas likely means that the Patriots are probably sitting by the telephone, waiting for a good offer to unload an amazing player who made the mistake of making his contract dispute public, a major no-no in Bill Belichick’s world. It’s entirely possible that this is a one game anomaly as a result of a scheme developed for the Titans,  but I’ve seen the Patriots make enough surprising moves over the years to know that when you fall out of favor in New England. you find yourself wearing new laundry in short order. We’ll see what happens as the season progresses and the trade deadline gets closer.

5. Speaking of sitting by the telephone, I suspect the Patriots and Brian Waters will want to work out their contract differences this week. While the Pats’ offensive line had an outstanding game yesterday, depth looks to be an issue, as Connolly got hurt during the course of the game. Waters’ return would help shore up the front five.

6. Because I live-blogged the Patriots-Titans game yesterday, I actually found myself far more focused on collecting data about the game rather than on cheering for my team. Don’t get me wrong, I still cheered, but did so with a far more objective lens than I normally would. I think that was reflected in what I recorded yesterday, but I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide. By the way, thanks to my three readers yesterday! For everyone else, check out the blog and see if you’ll visit me when I do it again.

7. Finally, maybe it’s just his change of laundry, but why do I suddenly like Peyton Manning a whole lot more than I used to? I couldn’t stand the man when he was with the Colts, and when the Colts they were certainly a much tougher rival than the Jets. Part of it is that he came off (to me) as an oaf who could put up stats but couldn’t win the big game, especially not against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That changed the year the Colts won the Super Bowl, but even that was due to a monumental collapse on the part of the Patriots’ defense in the AFC Championship Game. Part of my disdain also goes to his father Archie, who I despise for acting like the ultimate helicopter parent in forcing Eli’s trade from San Diego to New York. Yet strangely I have never disliked Eli, even though his Giants have twice beaten us in the Super Bowl. But last night I admired his performance in returning from a year off of football to lead the Broncos to a dramatic win over the Steelers. Part of it is my disdain for the Steelers and for their quarterback, who I suspect is devoid of character. But a large part of it was the perspective that Manning portrayed in the post-game interview, where he seemed to be far more mature than the Manning I used to loathe, and who had a greater humility than I have ever seen him display. I made the comment to Rat’s Widow as we watched, and I suddenly found myself liking the guy after all of these years. I’m sure I’ll feel differently in Week Five when the Broncos visit Foxboro, and I am not sure if this says more about me or more about Peyton, but it was nice to appreciate his work last night and not root for him to lose.

See you next time!