Last night, during the first PFT visit to the Nick & Artie show (the clip is on their website), the topics included officiating. Many believe it needs to improve, and I suggested that the NFL needs to be willing to make revolutionary changes in order to truly improve it.
The problem is that, by the time a person has the wisdom and the ability to ignore the pressures of the assembled — and partially intoxicated — mob, he (or she) may no longer possess the physical ability to monitor in real time the actions of men who are moving more quickly all the time. And so the NFL, given the increased importance of the outcomes of pro football games, should be willing to explore sweeping changes aimed at ensuring not that fewer calls are missed, but that no calls are missed.
Strengthening my belief is a curious play from Sunday’s largely ignored Rams-Browns game. In the second quarter, with receiver Josh Cribbs in shotgun formation and quarterback Colt McCoy lined up wide left and quarterback Seneca Wallace lined up wide right, Cribbs gave the ball to Wallace moving left, who flipped it to McCoy moving right, who threw the ball to Wallace down the left sideline for a 21-yard gain.
But it was the second forward pass on the play, because Cribbs didn’t hand the ball to Wallace. Cribbs tossed it forward, making it the first (and by rule the only) forward pass that should have been permitted on the play.
This wasn’t some judgment call or vague action occurring within a cluster of tangled bodies. It was an obvious short pass by Cribbs to Wallace, and the officials missed it.
It’s just another example of why this isn’t simply an issue of getting better officials. The NFL needs to find a better way for ensuring that obvious human errors aren’t missed. With a small army of TV cameras at every game, an efficient system for real-time replay review could be designed, before an obvious error like this is made in a game that people are actually watching.
UPDATE 1:55 p.m. ET: Per Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, coach Pat Shurmur acknowledged on Wednesday that he recognized that the play involved a second forward pass as the it unfolded. “The first exchange [Cribbs to Wallace] was practiced all week as a handoff,” Shurmur said.