John Dillinger: I rob banks for a living, what do you do?

Mike Foss, USA Today:
As an emphasis on player safety increases – as it should – the freedom of referees to interject themselves into every play also increases – as it shouldn’t.
Dez Bryant was penalized for trying to make a play. Bryant extended, leaving himself exposed and the referees free to interpret.

We can argue the validity of both calls, we can argue if the officials got it right, and we can argue if the rules are poorly drawn. What we can’t argue is that officials have played a more prominent role in games than the players, and that should never be.

In the wildcard round, it was the Detroit Lions who drew the short straw on the pass interference reversal. In the divisional round, it was the Dallas Cowboys who got the short end of the stick on the Dez Bryant catch that was reversed after review. That makes two NFC playoff games that were decided by the referees, and not by the players on the field.

This week, we have the NFC championship game in Seattle featuring the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. When these two teams met on September 24, 2012, the current NFL referees were on strike.

With eight seconds to play and the ball at the Green Bay 24 yard line, Seattle trailed 12-7. QB Russell Wilson unleashed a Hail Mary pass into the Packers end zone. Packers safety M. D. Jennings and Seahawks WR Golden Tate both jumped up for the ball, and both maintained some amount of contact with the ball in the air and upon landing on the ground. M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass. The ruling on the field was officially a touchdown, with Tate and Jennings maintaining simultaneous possession.

The back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn signaled interception, but was overruled by the head referee, Lance Easley who signaled touchdown.Ebenezer Samuel, NYDailyNews:
Since his 15 minutes of fame, not much has gone good for Easley, 55, who had been a lifelong referee but refs no more as he battles severe depression. “I started having massive panic attacks,” he said. “It’s like an alien took over my body. I’m just trying to recover now . . . I’ve got problems.”

ESPN's Kevin Seifert wrote, "In all, it was one of the most disorganized and embarrassing scenes you'll ever see on an NFL field. At least, so far."

Two days after the game, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association announced they had reached an agreement to end the lockout. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the negative attention the game drew to the referee situation was an impetus for ending the labor dispute.

Whether it is the replacement or regular referees, the calls tend to favor the home team in the playoffs.

1972 - Immaculate Reception by Steelers RB Franco Harris in Pittsburgh
1979 - Houston Oilers' WR Mike Renfro's catch ruled out of end zone in Pittsburgh
1999 - 49ers' WR Jerry Rice fumble not called against Green Bay Packers in San Francisco
2000 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers' WR Bert Emmanuel catch ruled incomplete in St. Louis
2002 - Raiders' CB Charles Woodson sack/fumble recovery ruled Tuck Rule in New England

Only the original Hail Mary pass from Dallas Cowboys' QB Roger Staubach to WR Drew Pearson in 1975 against the Minnesota Vikings has the road team benefited. Minnesota CB Nate Wright was clearly shoved by Pearson, resulting in a 50 yard game winning TD catch.

Worst calls in sports history - With the Patriots up by three points in final two minutes, referee Ben Dreith calls roughing the passer on New England's Sugar Bear Hamilton after he hits Oakland QB Ken Stabler in 1976 NFL playoffs. The home team Raiders go on to score a touchdown in the final minute to win 21-17, and go on to win the Super Bowl.

“We don’t want to be the center of attention. The game is for the athletes." - Lance Easley, referee

Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.

Follow me on Twitter at @_prmurphy

For more of my articles, click here.

Paul Murphy 1/13/2015 03:52:00 PM Edit

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