The Philadelphia Eagles are 5-1 and coming off a pretty big win over the Carolina Panthers, so their fans should be pretty happy, no?
Actually no, they’re not happy.
Specifically, their ire is being directed at referee Pete Morelli, whose officiating crew flagged the Eagles 10 times for 126 yards against the Panthers while calling only one penalty for one yard against Carolina. It was a discrepancy of historic proportions:
This was the first time in NFL history one team had over 120 penalty yards while the other had fewer than 10.
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) October 13, 2017
Because of that and other recent Eagles games officiated by Morelli, a fan named Will Philbrick has started a Change.org petition asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to keep Morelli away from Eagles games. It had nearly 60,000 online signatures by Tuesday morning.
“NFL Referee Pete Morelli has a clear and statistically obvious bias against the Philadelphia Eagles,” Philbrick writes. “Over the last four games that he has officiated that the Eagles were playing in, the Eagles were flagged a total of 40 times for 396 yards, while the Eagles opponent in those games were flagged a mere 8 times for 74 yards. This is unacceptable and puts the Philadelphia Eagles at a disadvantage. Preventing Morelli from refereeing Eagles games will result in a more trustworthy and honest NFL. This will benefit the entire league and keep all claims of conspiracy to a normal level.”
Morelli’s work has come under fire before. After a string of officiating gaffes in the 2015 season, his crew was not selected to work the postseason and then was broken up after the season, a signal by the NFL that it was not enamored with Morelli’s officiating team. With a new squad, Morelli was back in the playoffs last year, however, officiating the AFC second-round game between the Patriots and the Texans.
Since becoming an NFL referee in 2003, Morelli has led the officiating crew in 15 games involving the Eagles (three of them playoff games). Philadelphia has gone 8-7 in those games, including 2-1 in the postseason. However, the Eagles are 2-6 in their past eight games with Morelli as referee, and the calls have not gone their way over the past four: Philadelphia has been flagged 40 times for 396 yards over that span; its opponents have drawn just eight penalties for 74 yards.
Week 5 was not seen as a particularly strong one for NFL officials. Besides the Eagles’ fans complaints about Morelli, the Jets had a touchdown and the ball taken away from them against the Patriots after the officials ruled that tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins fumbled it out of bounds in the end zone, a decision that baffled just about everyone who saw replays of the play.