A Picture caption Tuesday incorrectly identified the official who made a controversial call in Sunday's game between the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions. Field judge Don Habel, not back judge Jim Poole, signaled for a touchdown on a pass intended for Lion receiver Jeff Chadwick. Habel's call was reversed by other officials.
Art McNally, supervisor of National Football League officials, said yesterday he felt the officiating in the Washington Redskins' 28-14 victory over the Detroit Lions Sunday was "adequate, but certainly there were some plays that I want to see on film."
McNally was the league's observer at the game in RFK Stadium, in which referee Pat Haggerty and his crew called 19 penalties, several of which were controversial. "I'm just glad that (McNally) was there for this one," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday.
In fact, officials across the league received a great deal of criticism yesterday. In St. Louis, the Cardinals disputed an offensive pass interference call against Roy Green that negated a 39-yard scoring pass in their 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
In Pittsburgh, Steelers Coach Chuck Noll expressed anger over "the inconsistencies" in officiating during a 22-20 loss in Cincinnati.
"As a coach all you can hope for is a percentage of good calls to keep the whole thing operating . . . We talk to them (officials) each week. They give us all kinds of responses: the call was right, it was wrong, they blew it. But it doesn't change things," Noll said at his weekly press conference.
Asked if criticism of officiating has increased recently, McNally said, "I don't know if there's more. You'll always get some. You're talking about 160 plays in a game with 22 skilled players on the field at the same time. Any one player could be vitally important to the play. You'll always have differences of opinion, some of which may be valid because our people simply cannot be perfect."
McNally said of the Redskins-Lions game, "We had a high number of penalties, 19, which turned out to be the highest number of all 13 games played (Sunday) . . . It was a tough game to work. You get a club that gets out in front by 28 points. You get a combination of teams -- the Redskins are one of the three least penalized teams in the league and Detroit has been the most penalized team in the league. Sometimes, with a wide spread in the score, things happen and it becomes a little more difficult than if the game is tied straight throughout."
Gibbs reiterated his displeasure with "inconsistencies" in the interpretation of pass interference penalties.
At league meetings the past two years, Gibbs has proposed moving the ball to the point of infraction for "flagrant" pass interference, but penalizing the defense only 10 yards for "incidental" contact. Presently, on all defensive interference calls, the ball is moved to the point of infraction. He also has urged using instant video replays on questionable calls. Both proposals, however, have failed to gain enough votes to pass.
"The key is consistency. The question is how to do it," Gibbs said. "Maybe what is happening now will force us to better evaluate the game . . . We don't want to see the referees determining the game. We want the players determining the game."
McNally said there were many contested pass interference/incidental contact calls earlier in the year.
"In weeks two through five, we had a lot, but not recently," he said. "We'll certainly have questions asked (this week) about the one play in St. Louis and about the one play in Washington (in which the Redskins felt tight end Clint Didier was interfered with by cornerback Bruce McNorton, but no penalty was assessed).
Gibbs also said the 105-yard interception return by cornerback Darrell Green should not have been called back, that Green did not signal for a touchback.
"He went to the ground with the interception," Gibbs said. "He stood up, looked around, took one little stutter and he took off."
However, side judge Dick Creed ruled that Green had signaled for a touchback in the end zone before he started upfield.
Defensive Coach Richie Petitbon, after reviewing the game film yesterday, said the return should not have counted since Creed blew his whistle before Green began to run, thereby stopping the Lions' pursuit. But Petitbon did not feel the whistle should have blown in the first place. "(Creed) came over and said that Darrell had knelt to the ground (for a touchback), but he didn't. He just hesitated," Petitbon said.
"My view was that (Green) was down and did delay," McNally said. "The thing I couldn't see was whether the whistle was blown. After the game, the officials felt that by going down and staying down (Green) had given up (the chance to advance) and the official felt that Detroit wouldn't make a play after that."
McNally said league officials are subject to weekly grading. He said members of his staff review every play from every game each week ("We spend an average of eight hours on each game") and that both coaches are instructed to file reports to the league, grading officials and raising questions that relate to controversial calls and rule interpretation.
McNally's staff sends confidential responses to teams questioning a particular call or lack thereof. His staff also sends a game film to each officiating crew, along with a detailed report that grades each official's performance, for the crew to evaluate the following Saturday. Haggerty's crew will be in San Diego Sunday for the Chargers' game with the Miami Dolphins, McNally said.
Gibbs said he usually instructs the league to review "three to six" questionable plays a game. Gibbs (offense) and Petitbon (defense) said they each would send in "three to four" plays from Sunday's game.