Happy Tuesday, WFNY!
Carlos Hyde had just secured a first down. The Cleveland Browns were a couple of kneels away from being 2-1-1 on the season. There was hope, optimism, and excitement!
I began to type a text to my dad. “A win streak for the Browns! How crazy is this?!” At the last minute, I held off from hitting send. The play was under review. It wasn’t going to be overturned, but still, Cleveland sports fans know better than to tempt the sports gods with bravado and potential jinxes. But yeah, the announcers see it the same was I do. Dean Blandino, the former VP of Officiating who lends a hand to Fox broadcasts on looking at reviews, also concurred. There was nothing there to overturn this call.
Then the refs came out and reversed the call.
I deleted the text to my dad and turned off the TV. You didn’t have to tell me what was going to happen next. I vowed last year that I was no longer going to let the Browns and the NFL ruin my Sunday. If a call like that is going to happen, I’m simply not going to watch anymore. I have better things to do with my time.
Oh, sure, the NFL has tried to justify the call. You’re kidding yourself if you expected anything else. Fine, the league will sometimes admit a call is wrong, but they are never going to admit that a call that definitively took away a win from one team is wrong. And yeah, nobody is going to say the Browns didn’t still have a chance to win. They could have stopped the Raiders from scoring. But that overturned call was pretty darn deflating. But that one call directly cost the Browns a win. And with gambling money on the line as well, you wonder how the refs affected that outcome as well. Hard to imagine the NFL admitting they messed up and cost bettors that money.
No, instead you get nonsense like this from the league office:
“From the line feed, you can see the line to gain is just past the 19-yard line. One replay angle shows [Hyde’s] wrist, and the elbow hit the ground simultaneously. Then when you go back to the line feed, you see the wrist hit the ground and you know the elbow is down. At that point, you are able to clearly see that the ball is short of the line to gain.”
Clearly. Huh? For the record, Dean Blandino still isn’t buying it, telling Sirius XM NFL radio, “If you have to try to piece together multiple angles in order to explain why you overturned a call it’s probably not indisputable.”
I don’t think many observers disagree with Blandino. It was a messed up call, especially when you consider how rare spot calls are overturned. It was to be so abundantly clear that the call was wrong for it to be changed. In that same vein, had the call on the field been ruled short, I wouldn’t have had an issue with the call staying the same on review. I’m not arguing that he clearly had the first down. I’m arguing that is ridiculous to say there is indisputable, clear video evidence that Carlos Hyde was short of the first down.
This wasn’t the only blown call, of course. The Derek Carr fumble that was ruled not a fumble as the refs tried to say his forward progress was stopped was laughable. Unless you’re the Browns. It cost the Browns a TD, so it’s not so funny to them, probably. It wasn’t just calls that went against the Browns, either. Arden Key’s roughing the passer penalty when he bumped into Baker Mayfield was an atrocious call.
It’s been an NFL season full of ridiculous calls. I still haven’t forgotten the horrible penalty on Myles Garrett in week one for his hit on Ben Roethlisberger. That nullified a 3rd down stop and led to a Steelers touchdown. In a game that ended in a tie, of course. Clay Matthews has been most notably called for a series of horrendous roughing penalties. It seems like every NFL game today is bogged down with a never-ending series of head-scratching calls. It creates a feeling of confusion and makes the game seem disjointed.
So I find myself, like so many others, losing interest in the NFL. Of course, this is all a catch-22 for the league. Without rules protecting players, we suffer through seasons with injured stars. This is a slightly different issue than refs bizarrely overturning a first down call, but I feel like it speaks to an overall, larger point about officiating in sports in general.
Athletes are so big and fast and sports are being played at a crazy, breakneck pace today that officiating them is harder than ever. I have no doubt about that. So that’s the pickle we find ourselves in as fans. The NFL is frustrating to watch because the officiating is so bad. But the officiating is so bad, in part, because the players are so good and so fun to watch. From a talent standpoint, the NFL has never been better. There are so many exciting, young stars to watch. But the product itself is suffering.
I have no answers, of course. I never do. I’m just a sports fan who continues to be frustrated by the frequency with which officials are the story when it comes to games. All we can really do is just hope things even out and a call or two goes the Browns way sometime soon and helps them win a game they should have lost. Then we’ll call it even and all will be fine.1
- This is sarcasm. Did I need to point this out? I feel like I did. [↩]