Now that the he-said-then-he-said-what-he-meant stage of the “looking back” portion of the bye week is over, I’d like to move to the what-the-what? stage. Specifically, what was up with Sunday’s errant whistle, the mistake by the officials in dealing with it — and the admission by Mike Shanahan after the game that he knew little about it.
That admission came in the post-game news conference and was not misinterpreted. It was largely overlooked because of all the other interesting remarks during said news conference. But it shouldn’t be.
Let me first say this: I wanted the “real” officials back as much as anyone, and wrote that. The replacements did the best they could, but they were not NFL referees. That doesn’t mean the “real” officials are no better than the replacements — they are; ask the Packers — but they aren’t perfect.
The games worked by replacement officials were at least entertaining as we watched coaches of nearly every team in the league teach the replacements the rulebook and help them spot the ball. And when it came to riding herd on the zebras, no one was more adroit than Shanahan. (I speak of Mike; Kyle Shanahan took it a little too far.)
So how did Shanahan not know about the errant whistle during DeAngelo Williams’s touchdown run near the end of the first quarter in the Redskins’ loss to Carolina? I can understand Shanahan not hearing the whistle itself, given everything he’s trying to pay attention to during the game, but the defensive players clearly did. Why no communication with their coaches?
What could Shanahan have done? Screamed bloody murder. We’ve all seen players and coaches — on the field and on the sideline — howl about a missed play until an official throws a very late yellow flag.
The non-replacement refs botched it because they decided Williams was in the end zone when the whistle blew, so he would have scored anyway, so . . . touchdown! He very clearly was not. The rulebook says that in the event of an errant whistle, the ball “becomes dead immediately,” and that if the ball is in the possession of a player, the player’s team can elect to put the ball in play from the spot of the whistle or replay the down. It does not say that the officials should confer and guess what happened.
Their ruling also made no logical sense. The whistle came during the run. How did that suddenly become after the run? And then the officials compounded their gaffe by not admitting it after the game. The league, however, saw it in the review of film. Too little, too late.
I know what you’re thinking: What difference did it make? Probably none. The Panthers would likely have scored on the drive anyway, probably on the ensuing play, given the state of the Redskins’ defense. But what if the defense had held them to a field goal? It’s a remote possibility. Here’s another possibility. To quote Rob Schneider: Fumblaya! That might have changed the tenor of the game.
The point isn’t that the call cost the Redskins the game — the Redskins cost the Redskins the game — but that Shanahan didn’t have enough information to fight it. Because I’ll bet he knew the applicable rule. I’m not blaming Shanahan, who is focused on the game. But shouldn’t someone upstairs in the coaches’ box be aware of what’s going on? Surely there’s a TV in there. Turn up the sound, fellows. Kenny Albert shouldn’t know more about what’s happening than the coaching staff.
A quick word in the headset and Mount Mike could have quickly erupted – we’ve seen it before – and perhaps the ruling would have been changed. And perhaps momentum would have changed. Perhaps.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The game was likely going to go down as an “L” anyway. So the caravan moves on, and we begin the “looking forward” portion of the bye week. But maybe during the down time, the Redskins can find a way to get information to the head coach as quickly as the Fox crew got it to its viewers.
For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.