The NFL recently clarified its rules regarding criticism of officials — both via a memo sent to all teams and by smacking Saints coach Sean Payton and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones with fines.
Now, a player is in line for a letter from the league requesting a sizable involuntary donation to the Human Fund.
On Sunday night in Jacksonville, Steelers linebacker James Harrison drew a roughing the passer penalty for an apparently clean post-throw hit on Jags quarterback David Garrard.  Even John Madden, who in his golden years has in many ways assumed the mantle of Joey Sunshine, thought it was a bad call.
Harrison agreed.  And, after the game, he said so. 
“Ridiculous call,” Harrison said.  “You don’t make a call like that.  Unless [the official] might have money on it.”
Uh.  Oh.
In early 2006, former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter suggested that the officials were trying to hand a playoff game to the Colts.  We inquired with the league office whether a fine would be forthcoming, and we were told that Porter wouldn’t be fined, because coaches and other front office types are held to a higher standard than the players.
That ill-advised approach changed last year, when three Ravens defensive players drew fines for publicly questioning the integrity of the officiating in a Monday night loss that extended the Patriots record to 12-0. 
Last month, the league office informed us that the rule against criticizing officials could be violated only by making personal attacks or questioning the integrity of the officiating.  Thereafter came the memo making clear to all 30 NFL franchises (and the Lions and Raiders) that no public criticism is permitted.
Under either standard, Harrison crossed the line, and he should be fined.
That said, it was a ridiculous call.  You don’t make a call like that.  Unless the official might have money on it.


  1. Much like baseball, the officials are trying to control games instead of just officiate them. Baseball umps have been trying to make names for themselves for years and usually do it by throwing out players for stupid reasons.
    NFL refs are getting too quick with the whistle and not letting the plays take their course. Horrible call last night on the roughing call. I understand its a QB driven league, but c’mon already. Either put a dress or a red jersey on them. The QB protection rules are laughable now.

  2. Officiating seems to have sunk to a new low this year and is the worst I can ever remember it being in the league. Missed call after missed call, blown calls on the ones they do make. Pathetic and it puts such a cloud over the league.

  3. I saw the head of officiating (Aiello?) last year or the year before on NFL network explaining some calls. He said at that time that any time the defender falls directly on top of the quarterback and it appears that in any way this can be avoided, say by falling to the side instead, that that is a 15 yard penalty. It is supposed to be a safety issue to keep 300-plus pound men from falling on a QB in an awkward position which could result in injury.
    Under that standard, it was the correct call.

  4. That penalty was horseshit. Harrison hit the QB just as he released the ball. You see hits like that on practically every passing play in the NFL. To call that penalty was a horrible call. Harrison should get fined for his comments, but the refs penalty for blowing that crucial call should be to stand on the field and let James Harrison take a 10 yard run and lay a hit on him. You stuck it to Deebo, now let Deebo stick one to you. It’s only fair.
    BTW, James Harrison is the best pass rusher in the NFL right now. He is what Shawne Merriman was supposed to be, just minus the juice and much more intimidating.

  5. I didn’t see this play but I watched the Ravens game and saw the flag thrown against Suggs for “hitting the QB in the helmet”. He was being blocked with his back to the qb and put an arm up to try to block the ball, the arm gently grazed against the helmet. No hit, no facemask, nothing but a gentle graze. And yet there was a penalty.
    Protecting the QB is great, but overprotecting them is hurting football. I remember when there was a 2 step leniency given to defensive players for hitting the QB after the ball is released. Now it seems like the players have a a few milliseconds to stop once the ball is released or else yellow will litter the field. Let the guys play and if a QB gets injured, its part of the game.

  6. There’s no consistency in the way the refs are making these roughing the QB calls this year.
    The NFL knows people get touchy about judgment calls, hence the decision to make all facemask penalties 15 yards this year, as well as the force out rule change. So they should do everything in their power to make sure roughing the passer is called consistently.

  7. Yeah, falling on the QB is bad, except when it happens to Big Ben, and then it’s ok.
    Ron Winters sucks.

  8. What is that crap about the 30 teams and oh! the Lions and Raiders?
    No need for the sarcasm just mention the 32 teams and that’s it.
    Keep it real Florio!

  9. I’ll take Ware, thanks. If he gets at least one sack in the next two games he ties the NFL record for consecutive games with a sack. He does it all, all the time. Harrison’s pretty streaky.

  10. The hit was as the ball was thrown – and was the reason the ball was off target. It was an awful call. The refs last night were entirely too flag happy.
    If that wasn’t enough, after the BS call on Harrison, there was no call as Reggie Hayward put a strangle hold on Ben’s neck with his arm and attempted to pull his head off in the fourth quarter.

  11. In all fairness, that NBA official does leave a sense of lingering doubt about the intregrity of officiating in general. Harrison will be fined but his statement was accurate.

  12. Harrison crossed the line? Please the ref crossed the line when he made the call. It wasn’t even close to being right. That was the second time in two weeks that the refs made the same exact call against the Steelers. The officiating this year has been terrible. The refs do deserve to be critized. I agree with Harrison decision to say something. Maybe the league will open their eyes because of this.

  13. If your worried about gambling being an influence put a tail on the Sage Rosenfail guy. Dude threw a game.

  14. Pretty streaky? Harrison is playing Defensive Player of the Year football on every single down so far this season. You can have Ware. The only thing Ware has on Harrison is his age. I’ll take Harrison AND the LaMarr Woodley on the outside. The absolute best pass rushing tandem in football right now, bar none.

  15. There could be no money on the game by the officials as the calls were lousy on both sides of the ball (hey, maybe they all had money on the game but didn’t tell each other!)… that “taunting” call on the Jags by the official who was all pumped up over it was equally as ridiculous. As someone else says, the officials need a good talking to. They need to be instructed to let the players play the game and stop looking for microscopic infractions which, as a wise man once said, could be called on every play.

  16. After watching last night’s game, I hope it will end the inaccurate portrayal of Big Ben as a drama queen. The guy plays hurt, takes lots of hits, extends plays by breaking tackles, and puts the ball on the money with 300 pounders hanging all over him. So what if he says his toe hurts.

  17. Harrison got hosed on that call. I don’t like the Steelers one bit, but fair is fair. There was no way he could have stopped, and no way he could not have landed on Garrard. He didn’t hit him on the head and put his friggin hands up when he landed on the guy. If that’s a penalty then it’s time to put flags on the hips of NFL Quarterbacks.

  18. @Bubby Brister
    -Very true, just look at the stats.
    The officiating this year has been horrendous! Last night really took the cake though. The Jag’s can apparently hold all they want and take legitimate shots at the quarterback. But if David Garrard gets knocked down… God Forbid!
    The game was called terribly, however, Harrison should get fined and he knows it. Honestly would you care if you were fined for speaking out?

  19. “Pretty streaky? Harrison is playing Defensive Player of the Year football on every single down so far this season”
    All Harrison does is rush the passer, just like Merriman. He was all but invisible against the Browns and Eagles.

  20. The taunting penalty was called on Nate Washington for showing the ball to the Jags sideline. Officiating in that game was awful.

  21. I have to agree with Greg B. There were may bad calls and many where there was no call and there should have been. Both teams got hosed by those calls.

  22. Greg B is right. The official was fired up over the taunting call on the Jags and he, or another ref, was just as pumped with the taunting call on the Steelers. Even Al noticed during the broadcast. When the officials are showing that much emotion it is not a good thing.

  23. NFL officiating is the most inconsistent I have ever seen it. Missed calls and then over zealous enforcement go on ad nauseam in every game. The powers that be in New York are going to ruin a good game.
    I understand the desire to protect players from life threatening injuries. When you have players as big and as fast as today’s players, how is that possible in a contact sport?
    So contact will continue to be eliminated until nobody watches anymore. Then Roger can roast the goose that laid the golden egg.

  24. “Ware couldn’t carry Harrison’s jock if you gave him an extra set of hands. ”
    Why would he want to, homer? Isn’t that chore normally reserved for Harrison’s girlfriend to do while he kicks her ass?

  25. Vox Veritas says:
    October 6th, 2008 at 9:12 am
    I’ll take Ware, thanks. If he gets at least one sack in the next two games he ties the NFL record for consecutive games with a sack. He does it all, all the time. Harrison’s pretty streaky.
    If you would just ask mommy for a hug you wouldn’t look so silly begging for attention like this.

  26. Sigh. When the QB has released the ball a defender is required to slide off the hit and not land on the QB with his full body weight. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it always will be.
    Harrison didn’t do that. Therefore it was a penalty. Really, really simple stuff. About a thousand other examples over the last few years of exactly this flag on exactly this kind of play.
    I guess it’s too much trouble for people who write, discuss, follow, play or coach the game to simply know the rules and acknowledge when they’ve been broken?

  27. A Steeler thinking officials are throwing their game? Surely Harrison jests….he needs only to think back to the 2006 Supe to jar his memory that, that just ain’t so!

  28. This call was awful, especially compared to the non-call on the play Ben came up hurting after he was rolled over by a jaguars defensive linemen after the ball was thrown.
    Add this one to the taunting call on Washington, the personal foul on the jaguars DB, and the fact that they referees called a delay of game penalty after only giving the Steelers about 10 seconds to get to the line and snap the ball during their two point conversion attempt (which by the way, it appeared that Ben called timeout with 1 second left, but I suppose that doesnt matter either)
    The officiating in this game was awful all-around and after watching replays of the other games, I would have to agree it is just getting worse. (I especially loved the flag, then no flag, for a block in the back during the eagles kickoff return and the roughing the passer during the ravens game)

  29. ryanmc… did you watch the game? Harrison hit Garrard as he released the ball, interrupting the throwing motion. The rule is if it can be avoided, avoid it. In this case, it wasnt possible.
    Like Harrison said, he either pulls up there and doesn’t hit the QB, letting him throw or tuck the ball and run, and making Harrison look like an idiot… or he hits him and hopes the officials make the right call. They didn’t.

  30. Yes, Harrison’s roughing the passer call was bad. On the surface, the taunting calls (one on a Jags DB and one on Steelers WR) seem ticky-tacky. Sure, the officials aren’t supposed to get jacked up on their calls.
    But how many of you who have criticized the officials have ever put on a striped shirt and officiated a sport? I have, and it is easy to make mistakes no matter how hard your try and how good your intentions are. Officials will always make mistakes. It’s part of the game.
    I am a Steelers fan. I was not happy with the roughing the passer call. And Harrison should be fined for his comments.

  31. @griblets:
    People shouldn’t have to have put on an official’s uniform in order to be able to criticize them for getting very emotional about the penalties they were calling. That’s something officials shouldn’t do.
    In the broader sense, criticism comes with the officiating territory. Referees know this. Most of the times it takes several questionable calls to spark a debate, and this has happened in many games this season, unfortunately. Given the finality of officials’ calls, criticism is the only tool available to give fans (and sometimes even players and coaches) a voice in the matter.

  32. I thought the Ike Taylor pass interference call in the endzone was ticky tack . I see defenders blasting our recievers weekly and not getting the calls . And to the ass who is talking about the SB 40 officiating get over it dude . We got hosed in INDY early in the playoffs and won . GET OVER IT

  33. chza,
    yes, I did watch the game. Did you read my post?
    As I said, he’s allowed to hit the QB, but he has to slide off the hit if the ball is out of the QB’s hands by the time he does hit him. You can’t land on the QB with your full body weight.
    That’s the rule. If you don’t like it (and quite honestly, I don’t like it myself) then we need to get the rule off the books, or change the way it’s written. No point moaning at the official for simply enforcing the rule.
    Unless this is your first game watching football, you must have seen at least 100 hits exactly like that one which have been flagged exactly like that one. I know I have.

  34. ryanmc… did you see the hit on Frerotte last night? Same thing… no flag.
    Harrison couldn’t possibly have “slid” off the hit… he hit Garrard exactly as he released the ball. I understand where you have a defender coming in and pile driving the QB… but Harrison was just playing football. Had he been there one second earlier… it would have been called a sack. Its tough to be agile enough to avoid contact when you are going full speed at 6′ 250.
    The babying of QBs in the league is sickening. They might as well put a red shirt on them and outlaw tackling of QBs. Two hand touch.. that where its at.

  35. Maybe the NFL Refs should read what; Spank, HarrisonHits, JPeezy, JPeter15, Mborz, Hollywood Wags, Redneck, ClevelandSucks, GregB., nfldraftman, Bubby Brister, Chza, CopesCabana, theoctagon, & JimnBigD think of their ’08 self-serving weenie-officiating.
    They might consider using, “instant replay” (occasionally) when defenders take offense, and sucking it up when players don’t kiss their black-and-white stripes.

  36. Nothing is more annoying than watching Shaun Rogers dive at knee’s, take 2 steps full head a steam at Roethlisberger, and not only not get flagged, but taunt him after the fact.
    Cleveland player had Ben and could have legally hit him, the ball was gone, and he let up.
    Rogers comes Rambling in, Ducks his helmet and spears him in the shoulder.
    But Yeah, Harrison hitting the QB as he releases the ball needs flagged.
    if I get time, i’ll put the video’s up on Youtube.

  37. Oh,
    Forgot about this nugget.
    For Washington getting fined and Flagged for Taunting for showing a coach that was screaming “No Catch” And he shows him the ball.
    What about Quentin Groves Flexing and pointing to Tomlin after his sack?
    If showing a coach a ball is a taunt I would assume Pointing/Flexing after a play is fairly indicative of a taunt.

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