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Quick Inside Slant: Week 6

Impressions of the 2016 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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Apparently the referee standing right in front and looking right at Julio Jones and Richard Sherman couldn't see the clear pass interference.

Apparently the referee standing right in front and looking right at Julio Jones and Richard Sherman couldn’t see the clear pass interference.

For any team unfortunate enough to have to play the Packers in Green Bay, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket for Brett Favre.

The Problem with Pass Interference

On a fourth down in the final minute of the Falcons/Seahawks game, Julio Jones leaped up for a pass with only one arm because Richard Sherman had already started shaking his other hand. Watching this on TV, everyone in the world saw that it was pass interference. Yet it was not called on the field. So now what?

This has sparked a debate on whether or not several things should happen to prevent this problem in the future. A) Should pass interference and/or other judgment plays be reviewable? B) Should coaches have an extra challenge within the last two minutes? C) Should the NFL hire full-time officials? Fortunately for all of you, I have the answers.

First, I’ll start with the question of whether coaches should have an extra “emergency” challenge in the last two minutes. No. It’s actually a very stupid proposal that Inside the NFL claims that some coaches would like to see. I’m sure they would. They’d probably like to have 20-25 challenges just so they could have a chance to bitch at the refs a bit more. Perhaps we could allow the coaches to use their challenges in the final two minutes, but having a reserve just for this very specific case is a tad north of silly.

The NFL can't allow infinite challenges and can't open the box of challenging subjective calls.

The NFL can’t allow infinite challenges and can’t open the box of challenging subjective calls.

Should the NFL hire full-time officials? Yes. But it won’t help. A flag should have been thrown, but for some reason, it was not. So either the officials working that part of the play didn’t see it or they didn’t think it was a foul. More training will certainly not help eyesight, and I seriously doubt it would really help with judgment either. At least not significantly. Maybe it would, but there are still calls we’re all going to have to live with. I’ve said it more than a few times on this site and others before, but refs are people, just like those same ones who drop balls or miss coverage assignments. They are occasionally going to miss a call. And we can all sit on our couch with 15 different camera angles and a remote that freezes time and say for sure that we can’t believe anyone would miss a call like that, let alone professionals! But for starters, there are a few guys who are very good at jumping up with one arm and hooking the defender’s arm down to their bodies with the other to give off the appearance of pass interference. I remember Keyshawn Johnson doing that on more than one occasion. Also, though there are seven officials on the field, there are probably only three or so looking at the play. One of the hardest things for me to do as an official was to watch my coverage area regardless of where the ball was. If all seven officials were watching that ball, there would never be any holding, illegal contact, or roughing the passer penalties. And who could live without that! So three people looking at it from varied angles in real time – and only once – didn’t throw the flag. On that one play. We’re probably going to have to live with that call on the field. Which brings us to…

Should pass interference be reviewable? No. Well, maybe. If we start to review subjective calls like pass interference and holding, coaches will throw their challenge flag on any big play at the end of a game and pray there’s holding somewhere in there. And there probably will be. That said, it became obvious last year when trying to figure out what the heck a catch is in the NFL, that a catch is a very subjective interpretation. As is a fumble and the subsequent recovery. So if we’re already reviewing subjective calls, why not pass interference? Or holding? Or personal fouls? I’ll bet Terrelle Pryor would appreciate that. Personally, I think it would make football completely unbearable to watch. Ratings are already down double digits from last year, whatever the heck that means. Some people blame the election. I blame the flags, both red and yellow. Stopping it even more often to try to figure out whether or not the left guard was holding enough for it to be considered a penalty is not what I want to see in the increasingly harder-to-watch NFL. Just play and accept that refs are going to miss calls once in a while.

Lastly, there is the issue of whether or not games should be officiated differently in the final minutes. No, of course they shouldn’t. The rules should be the rules for the entire game. Same with basketball and every other sport. Sure there is nuance, but if it’s PI in the first, it should be PI in the fourth. I never had a problem with this as an official, and I doubt many NFL officials do either. It just so happens that this particularly egregious play happened in the last minute of the game, which are the only plays anybody talks about. Had it happened on second down in the first quarter, no one would have even remembered. In fact, there was a blatant hold by an Atlanta lineman on a third down conversion earlier in that game. It wasn’t called and the Falcons went on to score a touchdown later in the drive. Actually, that’s not necessarily true at all, but the fact that you all believed me speaks to my point. The refs are human, and until that changes, they’re going to miss some calls. Don’t pretend you’re so much better, because outside of the confines of your couch, with an actual whistle and in real time, you’re probably not. Except for that Duke Johnson non-fumble. That one is going to take a while to get over.

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Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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