NFL assigned former Falcons player to officiate Saints-Falcons game

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During the lockout of the game officials in 2012, the NFL once removed from a Saints game a replacement official who is a rabid Saints fan. Similar screening procedures apparently don’t apply to the league’s regular officials.

The NFL has confirmed that former Falcons player Phil McKinnely served as the down judge for the Saints-Falcons game. McKinnely spent five years with the Falcons, from 1976 through 1980. He played for the Bears in 1981 and the Rams in 1982.

The strangest aspect of the assignment is that McKinnely isn’t a member of the crew that worked the game. He’s the down judge on Bill Vinovich’s crew, but he was assigned to work on Clete Blakeman’s crew.

“As per standard procedure, both clubs received the officiating crew for Week 14 on November 30,” NFL spokesman Mike Signora told PFT via email on Sunday. “The officiating schedule is made by the NFL Officiating staff, so they determine who is assigned to what game.”

The official game book appearing at NFL.com shows that Hugo Cruz, not McKinnely, served as the down judge for the game.

“The listing of the officiating crew in the game book is based on the home team’s flipcard that is produced for media and the stats crew at the stadium, which generates the game book,” Signora said. “That flipcard was incorrect, which is why listing you saw was incorrect.  It has since been corrected.”

Clerical error notwithstanding, the league apparently has no procedures for ensuring that officials with potential biases won’t be assigned to a given game. And while it’s one thing to say, “Well, the crew has been assigned to the game and he’s part of the crew,” in this case McKinnely wasn’t part of the crew, and he was hand-picked (despite five years of playing for the Falcons) to work the Saints-Falcons game.

“Officials rotate on crews throughout the season,” Signora added. “In about 40 percent of all games to date, you have not had the complete ‘crew’ that started together in Week One.”

None of this means there was any impropriety, notwithstanding the inconsistencies in the calls that were made during the game. But it creates an appearance of impropriety no different than the appearance of impropriety that prompted the NFL to remove a Saints fan from a Saints game five years ago.

Really, how hard could it be to ensure that no game officials have any obvious biases or prejudices involving the teams in the games to which they’re assigned? If/when (when) gambling is legalized, the NFL had better iron out these irregularities or Congress will create an independent commission that will be responsible for doing it for them.

22 responses to “NFL assigned former Falcons player to officiate Saints-Falcons game

  1. Total garbage, and no fan of any other team can say with a straight face that they wouldn’t care if the shoe was on the other foot. Between this and Cerullo getting a league job, what is the league doing?

  2. Does it surprise anyone that the league proffered no explanation for HOW & WHY the NFL Officiating staff reassigned McKinnely to that crew for that game? Or that it was a former player for the Blankman’s team? I’m not a Saints fan but you can bet if it was a former Saint that assignment wouldn’t have happened.

  3. So what? How far do you need to take the background check? This was 35-40 years ago. Has he never worked a Bears or Rams game? I am obviously a Dolphins fan but I can look at a play and make a call that goes against my team. It is called integrity. Complaining about this guy as an official means you do not believe he has any. I can see if there is limited time between his playing days and officiating (like Peyton officiating a Broncos or Colts game) but at some point you have to let it go.

  4. tylawspick6 says:
    December 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm
    arrest, try and convict Roger Goodell

    ///////////////

    Geez, we have 5 more years of you copy and paste this again?

  5. The NFL fines players for wearing the wrong sox but can’t figure out that an ex-player for one of the teams shouldn’t be a game official? Sounds like Jerry Jones is right – Goodell is way overpaid and there is something wrong with the way the NFL runs things.

  6. Wasn’t Blakeman also the “alternate” ref hand picked for the AFC championship game for the deflategate controversy? Throw in the Ex-Falcon Ref, take 3 points off the board for a call that’s never made, call a penalty on a coach trying to call a time-out but you ignored and a late roughing call that was obviously wrong and 9 first downs on penalties and you don’t have bad officiating… you have what appears like tampering with a game.

    Don’t forget the home teams owner was the one that approved the controversial mega contract for perhaps the worst commish in sports.

  7. I looked back through game. Apparently he called the the pre snap penalty that nullified the FG before half. Called the roughing the passer penalty. He also took an unusual angle that got in the way of Marshon Lattimore on the interception that forced lattimore to cut back inside instead of run down sidelines to end zone. He was also involved in several drive extending calls against saints. This is a very bad look for the NFL.

  8. Please, please please stay on this Mr. Florio and keep seeking answers and a response from the NFL. God knows the league’s shills (Peter King, the NFL Network and ESPN) won’t touch on this topic with a 10-foot pole!

  9. I have never ever whined about officiating because they tend to even out over time. This however is very suspicious. I hate the Falcons but this is not on them, its on the league. Why assign him to this game when a potential conflict of interest could occur. Guess what? It did occur now NFL kindly explain.

  10. I’m confused. When I look at the gamebook on NFL.com McKinnely does not show up as an official. Specifically it states that Cruz, Hugo (94) was the down judge… I’m Saints fan and I think the game was officiated inconsistently and unfairly against the Saints; however, I’m curious as to where Florio got his information. And if Florio is right, why is the NFL publishing bad information?

  11. So, that explains why the Falcons were constantly getting first downs from calls against the Saints. They also took 3 points away after the Saints made a field goal. Just enough to give the Falcons a win. It just ain’t right.

  12. besdayz says:
    December 10, 2017 at 5:18 pm
    I looked back through game. Apparently he called the the pre snap penalty that nullified the FG before half. Called the roughing the passer penalty. He also took an unusual angle that got in the way of Marshon Lattimore on the interception that forced lattimore to cut back inside instead of run down sidelines to end zone. He was also involved in several drive extending calls against saints. This is a very bad look for the NFL.

    I was wondering why Lattimore cut to the inside after his interception. When a Cb picks off a pass in the flat it’s clear sailing down the sideline. Lattimore has 4.32 speed. Ryan is no threat even with the angle. He also has a 10 yd head start on Julio Jones. Jones would not have caught him if Lattimore could have ran straight down the sideline.

  13. Drew Brees and Sean Payton lost that game. It wasn’t a ref that threw the ball right to Deion Jones for another game clinching interception against the Falcons. It wasn’t a ref that caused Payton to lose his cool and run onto the field. With Kamara Saints likely win that game. They clearly aren’t as dynamic without Kamara and Brees/Payton had bad moments that gave the Falcons the win. Both teams deserved to lose. Neither played like a playoff team.

  14. With Kamara Saints likely win that game.
    =================================
    Did you even watch the game – Even without Kamara the Saints should’ve won that game. The former Falcon player ref made sure we didn’t.

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