After the officials missed a clear facemask call on Monday night against the defense and then a member of the crew threw the flag on a delayed basis, speculation instantly emerged that the league office used the pipeline to referee Ed Hochuli to point out that a penalty had occurred.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak seems to be among the many who seem to believe that happened.
“Yeah, that was interesting,” Kubiak told reporters regarding the situation on Tuesday. “I can’t speak for the league. I don’t know. I know it happened very late. There was a facemask on the play. There is no doubt about that, but yet there was no flag and you’re almost to the next play and here it comes. There are some things going on differently in how games are being viewed and people that are involved in situations and those type of things. That just looks like one of those situations that took place. Ed was very honest with me and said that he got late information but he thinks it was right.”
It definitely was the right call. But it apparently came via a violation of protocol, a Machiavellian approach to officiating a game.
As one source explained the looming expansion of the communication system, which is supposed to be used only to assist with replay review, to administrative help during the postseason, the league office sought formal permission to provide that assistance to referees because it already had been happening on a periodic basis. Indeed, PFT reported that the NFL at one point was considering enhanced use of the communication system during stand-alone regular-season games.
The league decided not to formally adopt the procedure for the regular season because it would have created an imbalance between the attention given to prime-time games and the attention given to the cluster that kicks off at 1:00 p.m. ET every Sunday. Regardless, the communication system is never supposed to be used to call (or wipe out) penalties.
Last night, it’s possible that NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino yielded to the temptation that comes from having the power to tell Hochuli his crew had missed a blatant foul. Like everyone watching the game at home, Blandino saw it. Unlike everyone else, Blandino had a more effective option than screaming at the TV.
Making Blandino more likely to give in to the temptation to get it right was the Week 13 Thursday night game between the Packers and Lions, which gave Green Bay an untimed Hail Mary try after a ticky-tack facemask call that Blandino defended by declaring that “at full speed the referee is going to see that hand at the mask and the head turn and he’s going to make that call every time.”
Hochuli and crew initially didn’t make that call on Monday night. And then they did, with apparent help.
It shows how the NFL can bridge the gap between what the fans see and what the officials see. And the best way to implement video not as a second look but part of the first look would be to have officials at every game who are there to provide that immediate reaction when a blatant, undeniable mistake has been made.