Another week and another officiating controversy has arisen over the NFL’s use of replay.
The victims this time were the Buffalo Bills and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, whose touchdown against the New England Patriots was changed to an incompletion after a tediously overlong review of the play by officials in the league office in New York City. As with a similar call against the Steelers and Jesse James in a game with the Patriots the previous week, the decision left people debating how a rule can be so poorly applied and questioning Al Riveron, the league’s senior vice president of officiating, for over-litigating plays.
Riveron explained that Benjamin did not have control of the ball with both feet in bounds, a decision that Bills owner Terry Pegula said Tuesday “just wasn’t consistent with what replay” was before Riveron took over the top spot this season. “They obviously weren’t looking at the same television the rest of the country was looking at, were they? You know what, you can probably find somebody in this country that disagrees [with the catch], and I know one guy would be Al Riveron sitting in New York City,” Pegula said. “But everybody I talked to — and they’re not Bills fans and they’re not necessarily anti-Patriots — they’re all baffled by that call, which just wasn’t consistent with what replay [should be].”
At issue for many is having folks sitting in New York analyzes plays more closely than the Zapruder film. Mike Pereira, the league’s former officiating czar, is now a Fox analyst and he tweeted Sunday that he couldn’t see how the touchdown was overturned. “Not clear and obvious the toe [of Benjamin] didn’t drag. There is a line behind the toe when he drags it. Am I missing something?”
Compounding the problem is that the rule about what constitutes a catch is being enforced differently, with “conclusive” evidence no longer the standard for overturning a call.
Pereira went on to note how “irritating” it is to have people in Park Avenue breaking down calls and undermining officials on location around the country. “Regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing [is]more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it,” he tweeted. “It is more and more obvious that there isn’t a standard for staying with the call on the field.”
Dean Blandino, a Fox analyst who held the same job as Pereira, concurred and tweeted that he did not see “anything clear and obvious to the contrary” to justify overturning Benjamin’s touchdown. “We’re being overly technical,” he explained. “When you look at the angles that were available there’s nothing clear and obvious to overturn the call on the field. … The call on the field should’ve stood.”
Pegula pointed out that this isn’t what replay was designed to do. It “was developed by this league to correct obvious mistakes. And if you got to look at a play 30 times from five different angles and keep looking at it and looking at it and looking at it, you go with the call on the field,” he said. “That’s what the league has been doing ever since replay started. As a matter of fact, Dean Blandino, who was the head of replay last year, said that was a touchdown.”
Pegula went on to call on the NFL to come up with some kind of remedy. “I don’t know what’s going on, but we have to fix it,” he said. “And I’m not saying that as the owner of the Bills, I’m saying that as a football fan. We can’t have stuff like this happening in our league.”
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