By Adeel Ansari (’21)
At this point in the year, it seems like every team has some sort of complaint against the current NFL referees. Almost every team in the NFL, from the Los Angeles Rams to the Detroit Lions, has suffered from the controversial calls the referees have been making recently. Although both coaches and players are constantly complaining, the NFL has decided to do nothing about the situation, prompting fans and players alike to ask the question: when will someone be held accountable?
Although it is a huge deal right now, this is not the first time the referees have faced such criticism from the public. A very notable example of this is something that a lot of people reading this might remember. In 2014, the Lions made the Wild Card NFC and were facing the Cowboys. The Lions were up 20-17 with about eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was third and one, and the Lions had to gain one yard to keep possession of the ball. As Stafford snapped the ball, he took a long shot down the field to Brandon Pettigrew. As he was getting ready to catch, he gets hit by the cowboy’s linebacker Anthony Hitchens.
This should have been a pass interference, but was ignored, leading the Lions to punt the ball and lose the game which would have been their first playoff win in decades. The referees came under much criticism after this from the players and the fans, but the NFL did not hold anyone accountable, and thus the Lions were robbed of a win.
Although I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs on how the Lions have been cheated because of botched referee calls in the past, I wanted to look at a different team: the Los Angeles Rams. On Thursday Night Football, the Los Angeles Rams were playing the Seattle Seahawks at Centurylink Field on national television. The referees still managed to make terrible calls, that’s forced the Rams into a loss, despite the game being televised across America. The Seahawks were on their second to last drive, and they needed to score to tie the game and make the extra point to win by one point. On third down, Russell Wilson was hit while throwing the ball to Tyler Lockett by Clay Matthews. This should not have been a penalty because Russell Wilson still had the ball in his hand when the contact was established, but the referees called roughing the passer, giving them another four chances to keep the game alive.
The Seahawks ended up winning the game by one point arguably solely due to this playcall. Once again, the NFL faced criticism and complaints, but did not even elect to review the play and release a statement, much less make sure the Refs faced consequences for their botched calls.
So what should the NFL do with these Referees? A great number of people believe that these calls are because the referees have been bribed by the team. This claim is mostly associated with teams like the Patriots and the Packers. What the NFL needs to do is try to bring in a new generation of referees to officiate the game. A lot of the current referees have been in the NFL for quite a while, giving them time to “get to know” some teams better than others. The NFL also need to focus on holding the referees responsible for the bad calls they make, especially when it alters the course of the game. There needs to be a fine for the Refs just like how there is one for players, and the NFL needs to actually enforce this.