Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy is still not happy that the referee didn’t flag Bertrand Berry for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in overtime of the Packers’ playoff loss to the Cardinals. And he thinks that an umpire in the offensive backfield would have seen it.
“I think it definitely would have helped [against Arizona],” McCarthy said, per Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. “Our quarterback, I think, definitely could be protected more than he was last year [by officials]. There were a number of times that he was hit and penalties weren’t called and fines probably followed.”
The NFL has decided to move the umpires to the offensive backfield this season, and although the league hasn’t detailed exactly how the umpire’s responsibilities will change, some league observers believe the move will result in closer scrutiny of hits on quarterbacks.
In the case of the Packers-Cardinals game, the NFL admitted the ref missed Berry’s helmet-to-helmet hit. Some thought the Cardinals also should have been called for facemasking on the final play, and the Packers seem to think an umpire standing in the offensive backfield might have thrown a flag, although the league defended that non-call.
As Seifert details, NFL coaches believe that moving the umpire will benefit passing offenses both because it will enhance quarterback protection and because it will give receivers more room to run routes over the middle. (Although they’ll also lose the ability to use the umpire to set picks.)
Overall, although the stated reason for moving the umpires was to keep them from getting hurt, it seems that the change will have the same effect as several other rules changes over the last few decades: Opening up the passing game.