On the first day of the NFL playoffs, the last thing anyone wants to talk about is replay and officiating and yet here we are, back in the same place we’ve been so many times this season.
In the first wild-card game Saturday, between the Titans and Chiefs, Jeff Triplette and his crew were in the bull’s eye, with fans on social media and Fox Sports commentator Mike Pereira, the former NFL head of officiating, calling out him and his crew.
“Horrible way to start the playoffs,” Pereira tweeted. “I hate to say it but this was not a good performance by the crew. Teams and fans deserve better.”
By Sunday morning, there was confirmation of an NFL Network report by Aditi Kinkhabwala, who had tweeted that Triplette would retire. Kinkhabwala reported Triplette was telling “folks around him he’s retiring” and “the heartfelt hugs he exchanged with his crew … looked like goodbyes.”
In Saturday’s nightcap, between the Falcons and Rams, it was left to NBC’s Al Michaels to speak for America as plays underwent excruciatingly long review (do they not have cable?) in the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters and verbose Ed Hochuli was left to explain. “One of the great things about the NHL,” Michaels pointed out, “is the last two minutes takes about two minutes.” Nor was that his only broadside. “I can’t figure out how this can take this long,” he said. “You saw it.”
Imagine how the frustration felt for people who watched both games. Among Triplette’s transgressions was announcing that Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was an eligible receiver on his touchdown pass to himself because he was in the shotgun formation. Actually, the pass had been touched by a defensive player, which made every player an eligible receiver.
The crew also ruled that Mariota’s forward progress had been stopped when he fumbled after a hit by Derrick Johnson. Replays seemed to show otherwise. Another time, on a Titans first down, the ball was spotted wrongly, forcing a Titans challenge.
All of that was enough to pull the conversation away from the game itself after a season in which officials struggled to parse and apply the catch rule. Replay review by suits in New York has brought the game to a halt as its purpose is subverted from simply trying to make calls correctly and fairly. This is no longer officiating, it’s litigating and no one wants that, especially in the NFL’s biggest games of the season.
After a call went against his team two weeks ago, Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula admitted that owners “have to fix” this problem, which won’t help with the few remaining games. At that time, 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.”
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