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Browns’ gadget play highlights need for better officiating

Cleveland Browns v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

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.

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35 Responses to “Browns’ gadget play highlights need for better officiating”
  1. fsubrowns9510 says: Nov 16, 2011 7:49 AM

    As I said during the game… only the Browns would have to use a QB at WR, a WR at QB, and a Backup QB at WR to complete 21 yard pass.

    Now I guess they can’t even do that right.

  2. FinFan68 says: Nov 16, 2011 7:54 AM

    These errors happen all the time. Many errors are at critical points in the game and actually decide the outcome. Human error is expected and an occasional judgment call missed on a fast moving play is tolerable, but the opposing coach should be able to challenge whatever aspect of a play he chooses. The replay system is deficient. Only scoring plays are automatically reviewed. If the ref does not signal TD on a close play, it will not be reviewed and the coach is forced to waste a challenge. 10 seconds of actual thought would have prevented that scenario. The refs need to be held accountable also. Being excluded from playoff games is not enough. Consistent bad calls ought to cause bad officials to search for other employment.

  3. ducksouped says: Nov 16, 2011 8:04 AM

    Gentlemen- its the browns..does it really matter??

  4. steelerfan77 says: Nov 16, 2011 8:12 AM

    Part of the essence and overall “love for the game” are missed calls. Fans would have nothing to blame the loss of their team on! Every fan hates missed calls when it negatively affects their team, but they love the missed hold, or the blatant helmet-to-helmet hit because they did not get set back 10 or 15 yards.

    Human error is part of what makes football great, perfect football would be very boring.

  5. exboomer says: Nov 16, 2011 8:15 AM

    While I agree that there needs to be better officiating at games unless you want 5-6 hr games every week it is impractible to use replay for every play. I’m sure coaches would find a way to abuse it if it did happen in order to give their teams every edge. As long as humans are in charge of making penalty calls there are going to be missed calls and that’s just the way it is.

  6. Kaz says: Nov 16, 2011 8:22 AM

    Oh Brownies smh… Learn to score some points and run a standard offense before you get cute with playcalling. That was a lot to go through for 21 yards. A slant would have done.

  7. sguy2130 says: Nov 16, 2011 8:23 AM

    fsubrowns9510 says:
    Nov 16, 2011 7:49 AM
    As I said during the game… only the Browns would have to use a QB at WR, a WR at QB, and a Backup QB at WR to complete 21 yard pass.

    Now I guess they can’t even do that right.

    ————————————————–

    I guess you missed the part of the game where McCoy threw a 60 yard pass to Greg Little. Guess you can’t even watch the game right.

  8. damko12 says: Nov 16, 2011 8:24 AM

    LeBron clearly traveled

  9. bengalsown says: Nov 16, 2011 8:27 AM

    It was a pity “non-call”

  10. phillyb6 says: Nov 16, 2011 8:28 AM

    @ducksouped
    I’m not even close to a Brown’s fan, so I’m not offended, but that’s not the point. You get that, right?

  11. blackandtealforeal says: Nov 16, 2011 8:34 AM

    As a Jaguars fan whose team has been on the same level as the Brownies the past few years, there is a reason. The less attractive games of the week barely have enough cameras as well as the worst set of broadcasters. That’s how it seems it always is. They miss the calls and can’t review some of them with out all the cameras the Pats, Jets and Packers have at every game.

  12. thejuddstir says: Nov 16, 2011 8:38 AM

    The point of the post is that NFL officiating is BAD. Do you know that the NFL is the only major sport to not have full-time officials!!! Tom Landry, Bud Grant, Hank Stram and other great headcoaches lamented this fact back in the 60’s. With the money the NFL is making, they should have fulltime officials who travel to teams practices during the week and work on their own skills. Besides overall bad officiating, it has become far too obvious that certain teams and players get preferential treatment……Why should a handful of QB’s get a flag if someone even breathes on them when others can get the crap beat out of them and not get a flag. Certain teams have perfected the “art of the hold”, etc. etc.

  13. wegonnadoitbaby says: Nov 16, 2011 8:43 AM

    I agree but I would take it a step further. The biggest problem, aside from the obvious example above which is a basic rule that requires nothing more than knowing the rules and paying attention, is that the rules are continually being tweaked and updated by the competition committee. The effort to tweak and clarify to make officiating easier have actually made it more difficult because often more interpretation, not less, is required, which leads to more errors. The change needs to start at the top and work it’s way down.

    Quick, define a catch, a fumble, pass interference, illegal chop block, roughing the passer, intentional grounding, forward pass or fumble ( Brady Rule )….etc…

    The whole thing is like the Tax Code…it needs to be simplified..

    For me the Rules and constant additions have made the game less fun to watch, not more fun. When three announcers can’t come to a consensus after 75 replays and disagree consistently what the rule is, how can we hold the Refs fully accountable?

  14. davem23 says: Nov 16, 2011 8:46 AM

    The officiating is fine you just need better, Referees. If the call is wrong, the Ref can overturn it. Missed calls are a different beast but I could live with that the misinterpretation of the rules that corrupt the game.

    An example, in consecutive weeks I saw the same exact penalty called two different ways, the clock play were the team with the ball seek to preserve time by running to the line to spike the ball. One week a failed attempt was flagged, movement (or not set prior to the snap) resulted in a mark off of 5 yards but no 10 second run off. The following week the exact same penalty relating to the play, this time a ten second run off. These mistakes impact the game because they were both ahead of field goal attempts.

    We need consistency and if you can’t do the job, find someone who can that knows the rules. Or go to the phone!

  15. 12strikes says: Nov 16, 2011 9:11 AM

    I may be wrong (most likely I am), but i thought that you could only have one forward pass, PASS THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE. So in other words when Cribbs tossed the ball to Wallace as long as the toss and “reception” happened behind the line of scrimmage, the 2nd toss would be legal.

  16. schweddyjabaals says: Nov 16, 2011 9:11 AM

    Better officiating? Maybe. Better play calling by Shurmur? Definitely. Although, the handoff to TE Alex Smith was “innovative”.

  17. moseszd says: Nov 16, 2011 9:13 AM

    Two or three weeks ago the 49ers were penalized for a legal shift. Last week they used the same legal shift and the Giants Tom Coughlin whined about it to the press then had the gall to say:

    “You have to understand that the intent to deceive is something that has to be determined. The officials did not think that that was intent to deceive. We can disagree all we want. But it’s obvious that it’s a part of their plan and they execute it very well.”

    Yet he’s the same guy that had, what, two or three defenders all fall down at the same time? As blatent an act of cheating as you can get without cameras, side-line walls or spys…

    Thing is, mistakes happen. And over the course of a season they pretty much even out. Heck, even over the course of a game they even out. Against the Giants the 49ers got a horrible call and a horrible non-call. And I’m sure the Giants might have had another disputable call that I’m unware of as well.

  18. scarletmacaw says: Nov 16, 2011 9:16 AM

    I can support using replay to overturn a penalty, especially the game changing pass-interference penalties. But if you start using replay to call additional penalties you’ll end up with a sport where every play is a penalty.

  19. breachaintone says: Nov 16, 2011 9:23 AM

    You are incorrect. Forward pass only applies to when the ball goes beyond the line of scrimmage. All the trickery was behind the line of scrimmage. Please save your indignation for another topic.

  20. bigperm33 says: Nov 16, 2011 9:28 AM

    Want to help officiating – fix that pass interference call. It has to be made just a 15 yard penalty. or, if there is a real fear that defenders will just yank down receivers when beaten – which does not happen in college – then have two penalties: 1) 15 yard penalty for the vast majority of calls; 2) spot of the ball for an intentional interference when beaten. but right now, pass interference can be such a devastating call, and in many cases it isn’t clear if there was interference at all, it isn’t clear who initiated the contact, and it isn’t clear if the ball was even catchable. Under those circumstances, to then reward offenses – who already have every advantage – with 20, 25, 30+ yards just on a penalty is absurd.

    Go back and look at the Giants-Patriots game. On the Giants last two scoring drives, two pass INT calls go in the Giants favor. Both were the right calls, but both were bad passes by Manning that were borderline catchable. The Giants then get rewarded with 55 yards in penalties on those two calls. And that happens all the time. It needs to be changed. Pass int is a very difficult call – for such a difficult call, it should not also be a potentially game changing call as well.

    And if the NFL doesn’t want to change the spot-of-the-foul rule, then train refs to better call the penalty in the first place, start strictly enforcing the part of the rule that the ball must be catchable, and take away the absurd part of the rule that says a defender has to turn his head around. Why? If a defender is running, and does not initiate contact, why does he have to turn his head around? It is just dumb, and encourages smart quarterbacks to purposefully underthrow passes in some situations – underthrow it and either get an incompletion, or let the WR initiate contact with the defender and draw a flag on a pass that had no chance of ever being completed.

  21. 2dollarpbrs says: Nov 16, 2011 9:28 AM

    Even the Refs weren’t watching this sorry game!!

  22. bucforever says: Nov 16, 2011 9:46 AM

    If you want more perfection in the officiating there has to be less chance of human error. That would mean taking advantage of the ever increasing technology available today.
    They can put sensors in balls and gloves . Use lasers, wire the field markings ,etc . I am sure the technology is there. Do we really want them to use it? Really?

  23. rmc1995 says: Nov 16, 2011 9:49 AM

    Illegal forward passes are reviewable, why didn’t just the Rams use the system already in place and challenge the call?

  24. discosucs2005 says: Nov 16, 2011 9:52 AM

    Given the increased importance of importance of outcomes of pro football games?

    Did NFL games start suddenly start bringing about world peace and a consistent economy?

    We all love sports, and we all want the correct calls to be made, but let’s not pretend like this an important issue by any reasonable measure. That’s the type of attitude that got Joe Paterno in trouble.

  25. steelersmichele says: Nov 16, 2011 9:54 AM

    What annoys me during games is the late flag. The defense of any team makes a great hit against a receiver the the ball is dropped. Then about 15-20 seconds later a flag gets thrown. I’ve heard many analyst say that the refs have been told if it’s an especially violent hit to throw the flag. Do they wait to see how long it takes for the receiver to get up or what?

    But I think the complain of many fans is inconsistency. I think we all look at the officiating crew and know which ones are flag-happy and which ones aren’t.

  26. rarson says: Nov 16, 2011 10:15 AM

    Officiating will NEVER be able to get EVERY call right. It’s just not possible. That’s why you have to balance the desire for getting calls right with the desire to keep the game moving.

    At the end of the day, a couple calls will go your way and a couple won’t, and you just have to live with that. It’s part of the sport. Like they say in the UFC, “don’t leave it up to the judges”. Well, in football, you need to not leave it up to the officials. If you lose because of a couple bad calls, then you didn’t get it done.

  27. rarson says: Nov 16, 2011 10:17 AM

    “But I think the complain of many fans is inconsistency. I think we all look at the officiating crew and know which ones are flag-happy and which ones aren’t.”

    Yeah, I would agree with that. There definitely seems to be some inconsistencies between officiating crews, which should not be tolerated.

  28. dexterismyhero says: Nov 16, 2011 10:31 AM

    Throw the flag and review every play. Who cares. The Colts would still lose!!!

  29. steviaquinn says: Nov 16, 2011 11:06 AM

    Better officiating?

    Watch a Saints game sometime. Those guys get an extra 3-4 drives a game because of officiating.

  30. patsreign says: Nov 16, 2011 11:26 AM

    An additional official either a league or supervising ref could review each call from the booth to flag questionable calls that would benefit additional field review if the booth itself isn’t authorized to override the call. There are too many missed helment to helment calls and even some phantom helment to helment calls made as well as questionable pass interfernce calls. All major penalities have the possability of altering the outcome of a game and as such should receive a review to insure the integrity of the game and it’s result. How many major penalities are called in a game? As far as missed calls that would fall on the coach’s shoulders to challenge. In this way at a booth review could be incorborated at minimal interfernce to the game. If the booth review sees nothing wrong with the call on the field the play continues unabated and therefore only slows the game down for legitamate questionable game changing major penality field calls. The officating is bad and getting worse. We need a fix to a this growing problem. The game appears to be too fast for the old men officiating the game at times so a booth review would be a great adjunct.

  31. mattmillen4president says: Nov 16, 2011 11:37 AM

    “And so the NFL, given the increased importance of the outcomes of pro football games, ”

    Football games are no more or less important than they ever were. I love football, but it’s just a game.

  32. broncosaddict says: Nov 16, 2011 11:48 AM

    For those of you who feel that a forward pass must cross the line of scrimmage to be counted as a forward pass, congratulations, you could be a referee!!
    Evidently neither one knows the rules…

    Seriously though, calls will get missed, there will never be a 100% accuracy in any sport. The important thing is to have consist calls regardless of the referee, team, player, etc involved. (IMHO)

  33. vanislebob says: Nov 16, 2011 11:55 AM

    As if we need a lawyer telling everyone how football should be played. The writer would have EVERY play reviewed- hey, why not! We have to get it right, don’t we? Yes, I think we need to examine every play under the hood with multiple camera angles… please. People and mindsets like yours are killing the game by parsing every friggin’ aspect of every play to see if some (often minor) error occurred. This isn’t the Kennedy assassination, it’s a sporting event and I think fans can tolerate the refs getting it right 99%+ of the time.

  34. rockhill32 says: Nov 16, 2011 12:23 PM

    They already have a system. Throw the challenge flag.

  35. koenig61 says: Nov 16, 2011 8:16 PM

    Really this missed call is what highlights the need for better officiating? Really? Really? Im stunned, its not the missed pass interference calls that never get called on the offense, or the pass interference calls on the defense for the slightest touch or bump, or the incedental helmet to helmet contact that is called a personal foul, or the penalties called for touching a receiver because he is deemed a defenseless receiver, so that you have to let him catch the ball before you even breathe on him, or the holding calls, or the… well you get the idea. I could care less if they missed this ticky tacky two forward pass penalty. I’d really wish the officials could just be more consistant on the basic rules like pass interferance, and personal fouls. Not saying I dont agree that the officiating is bad, but I would love to see an entire post committed to the inconsitency of the “normal” missed calls. If Goodell really wants to make an impact on the game, how about making them full time officials, and have them watching game film during the off season to become more consistant.

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