Bill Vinovich

USA Today

The Refs

The day after a pair of great title games, I can’t talk about the games or the players.

January 21, 2019 - 10:00 am

Well, how was your weekend? Because that was one hell of an NFL Sunday. There are so many different places to start. That’s one of the great things about a Monday show after a Sunday like that. Do I start with the Rams digging a deep hole early and coming back? Do I start with the fact that an LA team is going to the Super Bowl? Do I start by talking about Les Snead and Sean McVay looking like a pair of geniuses today? 

Or do I start with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots going back to the Super Bowl? Again. With Josh McDaniels coming up with a masterful gameplan? Again. Or the Chiefs finding a way to shatter the hearts of their fans? Again. Not just shatter them, but finding new and different and incredibly creative ways to do it.

I’d love to start with any one of those. That would be awesome. But I can’t. The day after a pair of great title games, I can’t talk about the games or the players, I have to talk about the refs. 

I didn’t want to make today about the refs, but the refs did that. They made yesterday about themselves, so we have to make today about them. I should be talking about how incredible New England is, how I was right to declare that I’m never picking them again. Or talking about how the Rams have gone from 4-12 two years ago to the Super Bowl this year. 

But I have to talk about the refs. I could probably start every Monday show with complaints about the refs, but I don’t. Because it’s tired. It’s lame and it’s stupid. 

I’ve always said that if you’re complaining about the refs, you’re wrong. But if you’re complaining about the refs today, you are right. 

Because on the league’s biggest stage, they choked. Hard.  

Let’s start with the most obvious and egregious disaster from the zebras. You don’t even need me to play the highlight, but I will. Roll it.

There were at least two different huge penalties they could’ve called on that play: pass interference or helmet to helmet – and they called none. I repeat, two massive penalties that were obvious to everyone on the field, in the stands, and watching at home. Everyone saw it, except for the guys who are supposed to see it. 

I haven’t see a call butchered that badly since that MMA announcer got the winner of the fight wrong not once, but twice. 

Everyone knew Nickell Robey Coleman committed pass interference on that play. You know who else knew Nickell Robey Coleman committed pass interference on that play? Nickell Robey Coleman.

As Robert Klemko tweeted, NRC said after the game: “Yes, I got there too early. I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown.

Normally guys will do anything they can to avoid saying they got there too early. He’s flat out admitting it. Because he’s right. He did.

And if that wasn’t enough, Saints fans, here comes Todd Gurley on Instagram, posting a photoshop of himself swapping jerseys with the ref after the game. A truly incredible post. And even more salt in the wounds of Saints fans.  

The Rams know they got away with one on that play. The Saints know it. Everyone knows it, except for the guys who are paid to know it. 

But they seem to come around to knowing it. After it was way too late. Here’s Sean Payton postgame

In other words, ERRR, ‘SCUSE ME, MY BAD!

Thanks guys, that’s really cool. Thanks clarifying that. Thanks for calling to tell me something that I already know. If Sean Payton had walked into the press conference, put a credit card on the podium and said “this is for my fine” and then taken a flamethrower to the place, I wouldn’t have blamed him. There was a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

And I know that officials butcher calls in every game, and that part of the game is that players have to rise above it, but you can’t miss that call in that game at that time. It’s simply inexcusable. 

I know that being an NFL official is hard. You have to keep your eye on so many different things that are happening so quickly. It’s nearly impossible. Maybe it is actually impossible. But you cannot miss that call. You just can’t.  

And this isn’t some crew of ham-and-eggers thrown together at the last minute. These are supposed to be some of the best officials and they just made the worst no-call in the worst moment. 

And if I’m being honest, referee Bill Vinovich didn’t help his crew’s cause in his interview with the pool reporter. Here’s the transcript: 

Q: What was the reasoning for no penalty flag being thrown on the play involving Drew Brees’ pass attempt to Tommy lee Lewis (defended by Nickell Robey-Coleman with 1:49 to play)?

BV: “It’s a judgment call by the officials. I personally have not seen the play.”

Q: Did the timing in the game have any impact on a no-call there?

BV: “Absolutely not.”

Q: You said you didn’t see the play, correct?

BV: “Correct.”

Q: In this situation, is the play subject to an instant replay review?

BV: “It’s not a reviewable play.”

You didn’t see the play during the game or you didn’t see it afterwards? Because if you didn’t see it after the game and before you met with the reporter, you’re just choosing to bury your head in the sand. At that point, you didn’t see it because you didn’t want to see it. Maybe you go see the play you’re going to be asked about before you’re asked about it. Being ignorant at that point isn’t an accident, it’s a strategy. 

Cameron Jordan would be the first one to tell you, that call is not entirely why the Saints lost, but that doesn’t make it okay.

But while the no PI call was the worst, it wasn’t the only bad moment for the officials yesterday. There was the missed facemask on Jared Goff near the goal line. 

There were any number of calls in the Patriots-Chiefs game, including, but not limited to: the non-roughing the passer call on Patrick Mahomes that wasn’t called, which was correct. The non-roughing the passer call on Tom Brady that was called, that wasn’t correct. And then there’s the Julian Edelman muffed punt that instantly turned into the football version of Yanny or Laurel. Did he touch it? Did he not touch it?

Yet again, on the game’s biggest stage, officiating became the story. So there’s the larger question: how does this keep happening? 

Every year, there’s something new – the catch rule, roughing the passer, helmet to helmet, and then they keep missing those calls, routinely. And for everyone to see on television.

And here’s the thing, it’s not my job to solve it for the league. It’s my job to host a radio show. It’s the league’s job to solve the problems, but if you’re going to have instant replay, have it for everything or have it for nothing. Either do it or don’t do it. 

As a league, don’t put your refs in position to have to say, yeah, we blew that call and we know we blew it, but we can’t change it. Why can’t you change it? The rules. THEN CHANGE THE RULES. These rules aren’t written in stone. Change the rules to improve the game and get rid of the controversy. Unless you like the controversy.  

If the argument is that it would slow down the game, then figure out a way for it to not slow down the game. Besides, how much slower could the game get? It seemed like just about every play in the final five minutes of Pats-Chiefs was under review, so what’s one or two more, to get the game right. 

And if you don’t want to do that, then just get rid of the whole thing. Just say that human error is part of the game and everyone has to live with it.

Because right now you’re in the middle ground and it’s awful. It’s a terrible look for the sport. And it means that I have to open my show by talking about the refs instead of the players. And that’s awful. I should never, ever do that, but once again the refs left me no choice. Give them the help they need, or take it all away. Just know this. What you’re doing right now…is not working.