ESPN "B" team justifies their assignment

Look, it would be easy to sit here and type (again) that the guys who work the second half of the season-opening Monday night twin bill on ESPN don’t exude the same level of competence as the folks who handle the weekly MNF assignment.

But here’s a tangible example of the gap between the folks who handled the early game and the trio who (as rumor has it) includes a radio tag-team that is being groomed to eventually move into two of the top slots on Monday nights.

Near the end of the first half of the nightcap between San Diego and Oakland, Raiders wideout Louis Murphy seemed to make a 19-yard touchdown pass.  In real time, it looked to be a catch.

But then came news that the replay booth had called for a review, and every member of the broadcast team (and, presumably, the folks talking into their headsets) expressed a belief that the play would be upheld, even though after Murphy’s feet hit the ground he fell to the turf, the ball hit the grass, and the ball moved.

While waiting for the ruling, they sounded like three guys sitting around someone’s living room, reinforcing each other’s inaccurate understanding of the rules while eating pretzels and drinking light beer. 

“He’s got two feet, he’s gonna be OK,” Steve Young said.

Though Mike Greenberg seemed to be focusing on the right thing — whether the ball moved when it struck the ground — the former NFL players in the booth apparently influenced him to agree.

“I’d be very surprised if they overturn this,” Greenberg eventually said.

“I’d be stunned if they overturn it,” Mike Golic added.

After more expressions of certainty, Young said that two feet down in the end zone with the ball ends the play.

But it gets better.  They then accounted for the possibility that the rule requires possession to be maintained once the player hits the ground — and they contended that possession was maintained even though multiple angles showed the ball clearly moving as it hit the ground. 

So, of course, the call was overturned.  And then they disagreed with the explanation from the guy who doesn’t work only one NFL game per year, but 20 of them, possibly with playoffs.

“Look, I understand that it moved,” Young said, “but he still controls it.”

Golic then chimed in that Murphy’s arm was still under the ball when it struck the ground and moved.

“When the ball moves, does it mean that you’ve lost control?” Young said.  (Um, yes.  It does.)

The discussion continued, with Young trying to make the case that the ball can strike the ground and move without showing that the player has lost possession.

To prove how grossly wrong they were, look no farther than the closing moments of the early game.  In making the game-winning touchdown reception, Pats tight end Benjamin Watson caught the ball, both of his feet hit the ground, he fell to the ground, the ball struck the ground, but the ball didn’t move.

Play-by-play man Mike Tirico was all over it, pointing out during the review period that the ball could hit the ground as long as it doesn’t move.  Ron Jaworski then chimed in with a reference to the moment that triggered the current rule.

In the 1999 NFC title game, Bucs receiver Bert Emanuel made a catch from Shaun King during a late drive in a game that Tampa trailed, 11-6.  Emanuel had both hands on the ball, but the ball touched the ground while in Emanuel’s possession.

Under the rule in place at the time, the play correctly was determined to be an incomplete pass.  The rule later was changed to permit a reception in such cases, as long as the ball doesn’t move.

So the “A” team (and most passionate NFL fans) know that rule.  The “B” team (which includes a Hall of Fame quarterback) didn’t.

To their credit, the “B” team explained the situation after halftime.  But, even then, Steve Young made little sense, describing it as a subjective call regarding whether the player had it all the way to the ground and thereafter lost possession, and thus it “clearly could go either way.”

No.  It can’t go either way.  If the ball strikes the ground and moves, it’s incomplete. 

That’s why these guys are only working one game per year, and that’s why they’ve got a lot of work to do if they’re ever going to work more than one game per year.

UPDATE:  Chris Mortensen of ESPN agrees, Twitter-style.  That call cannot go either way with a review. It can only go one way:  A receiver must control the ball to the ground.”

56 responses to “ESPN "B" team justifies their assignment

  1. The “B Team” is awful, Mike and Mike are just doing their horrible radio show with Young along for the ride.

  2. And they’ve been mixing up McFadden and Bush the whole game, that at one point they just commented, “and the Raiders run the ball again.”
    Steve Young is continuing his trend of cutting people off (I’m still waiting to know what the other half of his story was that haleted to let the ref speak, then sent to commercial), and I have contemplated muting the sound, oh, about 50 times in the last 10 minutes.

  3. “To me it’s a little bit like, you know, coming out in a ferrari and the garage and you come out and, uh, the oil on uh, underneath the car, and it’s just the little bit that he just can’t in the long run (now being distracted by the replay) don’t, don’t, don’t chirp back, you don’t need to, it just makes your job harder………”
    I want to beat Mike, Mike and Steve Young to death with a sack full of kittens.

  4. Ya they were completly wrong but to play devils advocate the only thing they could be confused about is if they were thinking about the ground causing a fumble rule. Which means if you already have posession of the ball and make a football move then hit the ground and the ball moves then that is still a catch and not a fumble.
    That rule does not apply here b/c the receiver never had postion of the ball and at the same time made a football move.
    But that is the only thing I can think of to excuse there clear ignorance of the rules of the NFL. Which I find hilarious b/c I watch there show in the morning before work everday and they act like they are the final word in all sports knowledge. So I kind of enjoy them making fools of there selves and hopefully knocking there ego down a rung or two.
    I wonder if they will bring it up tomorrow and admitt to it, make excuses for it, or just ignore it. The way they handle it tomorrow will go along way .

  5. Whats more concerning is Steve Young just can’t stop talking and he isn’t making good chemistry. I think Golic is pissed he can’t get a word in. My wife who is known for her universal niceness claims she wants to ‘mute’ Steve Young.

  6. Let’s see if Florio has the gall to provide the same constructive criticism for the NBC crew as he does the ESPN crew.

  7. i’d rather hear ellis lankster as commentator than these guys. The bickering between mike and mike is horrible.

  8. This b-squad is worse than the b-squad of strippers on van wilder. Between them and si’s horrible online bloggers I can’t believe I’m actually gonna admit this, but I miss the old days of Florio live blogs before he was a big shot sellout.

  9. I think the three guys were sitting in separate rooms without headphones. How else can you explain the three of them talking the entire game? They was debacled.

  10. Jaworski is brutal. He sounds like a moron……..he has absolutely no understanding of voice inflection and intonation, so even on the rare occasion when he says something worthwhile, it still sounds stupid. I’ll take Steve Young over him any day.

  11. What commentators do you guys enjoy listening to? You hate Madden, ya hate Michaels, ya hate Collinsworth, ya hate Thiessman, ya hate Joe Buck, ya hate Bob Costas, etc. Ya hate them all, so shut up about it.

  12. i think the rule should be changed. i mean, from outside the endzone all it takes is kissing the plane with possession and its a td, when in the back or the side of the end zone, all it takes is two dragging feet in bounds to be a TD… looked like these kind of plays should be ruled touchdowns if for no other reason than a gut feeling, two feet down, in the endzone…. just seems wrong to me, even tho i understand it was the right call.
    fyi i am by no means a raiders fan.

  13. The headline for this post should be “Mike Florio jealous: Blogger with middling internet success feels he can do a better job than the pros”

  14. Florio,
    You’re not listening to what Young was saying. It sounded like he was trying to say that as soon as Murphy landed with both feet and with the posession that he had established by pulling the ball into his body, the play was over and should have been whistled dead.
    If he made that identical catch on the sideline with just his feet in bounds, it would have been a catch.
    Just like when someone runs the ball into the end zone, as soon as the tip of the ball touches the goal line with someone posessing it , it is a touchdown.

  15. A: You cannot fumble in the end zone. The microsecond the receiver has possession in the end zone it is a touchdown.
    B: His butt hit the ground, while he still possessed the ball and THEN it WIGGLED and eventually came loose. That absolutely should have been a touchdown. Yet another example of the official incorrectly interpreting the rules.
    C: Greenberg looked like he borrowed his dad’s blazer. Seriously man, go find a tailor.
    D: Young must have cut off Golic about 10 times in that game.

  16. ” A receiver must control the ball to the ground.”
    His butt hit the ground while he possessed the ball. Should have been a touchdown.

  17. These clowns are simply awful. Rarely are the facts of play by play given, all three frequently talk at once, and Steve Young endlessly prattles on about some point he made (or got lost in his stammering gibberish) regardless of what is happening on the field. They were slavishly drooling about “how great the Raiders defense is playing,” even as they were giving up 2 field-length touchdown drives in a row. My ears hurt from hearing them.
    Bonus Golic idiocy: On the second play of a drive Russell completed a pass up the middle to the tight end and Golic excitedly shouted “the run set up that pass! the run set up that pass!” This was after the Raiders had gone three and out on the previous THREE drives. Oh yeah, the run sure set up that pass alright.

  18. That was the worst call against any NFL football team ever. I don’t know how u guys get off by saying that the rule on the field stands. It is obvious that the NFL and all the Media Idiots side with the NFL even after the idiot officials make a bad call. I’m saddened by your bias and the fact that nobody in the US media can set aside their hatred towards the Raiders. The raiders won this game and it just kills me that u can’t be objective and state that the Raiders got screwed out of this game. My Charger fans agree they lost this game if not for the officials. Sad day today. Even sorrier day for all u bandwagon reporters.

  19. Steve Young is truly horrible in everything I have seen/heard him do as an announcer. Not only does he have a problem spitting out his words, stuttering, and changing thoughts mid-sentence but he’s just not smart in any sort of football communication sense. While other announcers might be pointing out relevant issues Steve Young is instead just trying to find words to say and they often aren’t relevant or even correct.
    As for the other two tonight, Mike and Mike were okay, not too bad though not good.

  20. Team A Ron Jaworski … are you kidding me … he’s a joke. Calling down the Raiders on the Seymour trade just because he lost to the Raiders in the SB. Looks like the Raiders have a good team with Seymour in the lineup and if they had a QB … they would have won.

  21. The only argument that it WAS a catch is that the receiver had control when his ass hit the ground. The fumble hit the dirt after that point. But it was close either way. Greenberg and Golic should not be doing any games. It’s not as if ESPN doesn’t already employ Sean McDonough, an exceptional play by play guy and a slew of analysts. It’s nothing but a horrible attempt at cross promotion by espn.

  22. The ESPN Broadcast team is a joke. It’s a real shame. I feel bad. I’ve been tweeting about this for the past year from Stuart Scott to Steve Young to Emmit Smith to now Mike Golic & Co. They really have zero chemistry. The commentating is horrible and I now go to the sports bars to watch games and could care less about listening to the play by play. Previously I would like to tune in at home to each NFL Game to hear the calls from the announcers, but not on any ESPN broadcast! I really think tje NFL Network has it right with Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, and Deion Sanders. They are the best team in sports broadcasting right now. I highly recommend to the NFL that they bring on that trio for as many games as they can. They keep me interested and anyone I know is always ‘into the game’ and play by play when watching an NFL Network broadcasted game. Best of luck to ESPN and hope you guys can figure out an alternate plan to this dismal past couple years with your NFL broadcast teams. It seems like ESPN is falling compared to NFL Network’s growth.

  23. How many times did Greenberg incorrectly identify Michael Bush as Darren McFadden during the game? I havd McFadden in my Fantasy league and it drove me nuts. It was like they were calling the game from a TV monitor. Brutal.
    As for Steve Young’s misinerpretation of the video-reviewed incomplete TD pass to Murphy, I think it was Young’s [i]laissez-faire[/i] attitude that mostly caused him to get it wrong. (I’ve been waiting a while to use that :))

  24. This rule sux. I hate this rule – I hate the tuck rule. Murphy caught the ball – 2 feet down his butt hit the turf and he still had the ball. Twisting to the ground – he bobbles it a little and its not a catch?
    Someone has to bring some common sense as to what a catch is and what a catch isnt.
    Yes – I am a Patriots fan and do not like the tuck rule. By Rule – Brady didnt fumble vs Oakland – but in reality – we all know its a fumble.
    NFL – Change the damn rules.

  25. another beauty was on the illegal contact penalty against the raiders in the 2nd quarter. golic watches the replay of the raiders db making contact before the five yards, but then continually enagaging the sd wr as they run down field (another 10-15 yards). golic then proclaims this should be legal. the ball is i the air and oak db still has arm on the wr. how can golic believe this isnt illegal contact.

  26. Relax everyone.
    Mort posted that it wasn’t a catch on his Twitter account.
    What more proof do you need?

  27. With all of the more than competent announcers that do college games for ESPN and ABC, they can’t use one of those teams instead of these three turds? Even outside of not knowing the correct ruling, they were absolutely awful.

  28. “I’ll take Steve Young over him any day.”
    ~Brought to you by Steve Young.
    Seriously I thought commentary, Chris Collinsworth, for the NBC Thursday’s Night game was a lot worse. However Collinsworth did do a much better job in Sunday night’s game. Maybe the old video of him talking about women, took him down a ego step or two, and as a result his performance improved.

  29. Q: How many times to you see a guy stretch the ball over the plane, it gets knocked out, and they still call it a TD?
    A: Every time.
    Full disclosure: I am a Raiders fan.
    This was simply a horrible call. Murphy clearly got both feet down with possession of the ball. In fact, I don’t think the DB even touched the ball.
    I was somewhat surprised that the refs were even reviewing the play considering how clear cut it was. I seriously doubt the Chargers would even have challenged the ruling had the play not occurred in the last two minutes.
    I hate to sound like Raiders Conspiracy Guy but this is yet another instance that the NFL chooses to follow obscure rules by the letter of the rule and not the spirit of the rule. Brady fumbled, no question. Murphy scored, no question.
    Fascinating how the Raiders are always on the short end of these rulings.

  30. “A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by a defender) must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone.
    “If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception or recovery.”
    That is the rule verbatim. This announcing crew was horrible. Will never listen to them do a game again. It is just too annoying and stupid.

  31. Re: “A receiver must control the ball to the ground.”

    Unless that rule says control the ball for 10, 15 seconds or forever?
    FACT is he had 2 feet on the ground, controlled the ball and when his thigh hit the ground he still had control of the ball in the endzone. Then it came loose. He was clearly what they call down by contact if it occurred anywhere else on the field.
    Refs again fix a game! This time they give game back to Chargers who they robbed last year in Denver. How about when Green Bay went for the 2 point conversion to beat the spread on Sunday, those refs thought he controlled the ball?
    Owners of these teams are scalping tickets and fixing outcomes.

  32. That was one of the most painful 5 minutes of my life. However, I like that Steve Young talks to the fans with the assumption that we are NOT bumbling idiots. He harped on the man free coverage a little to much, but at least we didn’t have a 10 min coaches tape class about what man coverage is.
    There really is no such thing as a good anouncing crew. I wish someone would come up with televising the game with nothing but game sounds. Crowd noise, pads, and whistles. Just like you were there. We’d still have replays, but no announcers.

  33. Guys… when his knee hit the ground, he had possession. It was a touchdown, plain and simple. That call was disgusting. The ref’s are garbage.
    They looked like Stewart’s Root Beer employees with those throwback zebra suits on, so they should probably just stick to their other jobs.

  34. Raider fans are like Dale Jr. fans in Nascar. And both sports would be better without them.
    The Raiders don’t even play on a REAL football field. It’s like watching a highschool football game because the town can’t afford both a football stadium and a baseball stadium.
    And I hope their thug coach gets fired and spends some time in jail.
    F the Raiders and their idiotic thug fans.

  35. bob s you’re back on the packers covering the spread? give it up. whats the point of being up by 5 (going for 1)? going for 2 allows for the possibility of the bears missing an extra point if they happened to score. teams go for 2 in this situation EVERY season, this cant be new to you.
    by rule i guess that wasnt a td. i would like to see this rule altered though. maybe if the guy gets 2 feet down then thats it, td. with this rule the way it is, i’m surprised more defenders arent tackling in the endzone.

  36. Awful call. If the rule’s the problem, change it. That should have been a TD. Whatever happened to the fact that the ground can’t cause a fumble?

  37. slutnuts says:
    bob s – going for 2 allows for the possibility of the bears missing an extra point if they happened to score. teams go for 2 in this situation EVERY season, this cant be new to you.

    fair enough! then if it happens so often give me one example of a team who had just scored a td in the last minute to give themselves a 4 point lead go for 2 points. give me just one other example!
    plus what i said was raiders receiver had more control of the ball when his thigh touched the ground than the packer receiver as he caught the ball on the ground.

  38. They use this BS wording so they can rule however they please! And why? THEY USED TO FOR DOWN BY CONTACT OR NOT SO REFS COULD FIX GAMES AS WELL UNTIL ENRAGED FANS MADE THEM CHANGE THE RULE. So they found other rules to manipulate so the refs for the greedball owners could determine any game they chose to. San Jose Mercury News But Raider Nation likely will be talking about the Murphy touchdown that the officials nullified, the one that got away via a questionable replay review in the final minute of the first half. “Honestly, I caught the ball, and when I fell down, the hand that I had the ball in is what I used to push myself up because I thought I scored,” Murphy said. “I was trying to come up and celebrate because I was so excited.” It sure looked like a touchdown, a 14-7 lead and a hoppin’ house party at the Coliseum. It came away looking like the officials are out to hose the Raiders again, perhaps in honor of it being throwback-jersey night and all. At halftime, ESPN’s Steve Young and Raiders megaphone Greg Papa hounded an in-house officiating supervisor for an explanation. Beat writers demanded an answer, too, from referee Carl Cheffers, a name Raider Nation must think is an alias for Walt “Tuck Rule” Coleman. “I’m disappointed. (Murphy) came down with both feet, his rear end hit the ground and the ball came out,” Raiders coach Tom Cable said. “(Cheffers) said he has to come down on the ground with possession of the ball. I don’t believe that’s the rule, but we’ll see.” The replay review led Cheffers to rule that Murphy “lost possession as he went to the ground” on the incompletion. Murphy looked to have two feet down and it seemed like a catch. But twisted rules can also make Tom Brady fumbles look like incompletions. Referee Carl Cheffers said in an interview after the game that the ruling was “pretty clear-cut.” “By definition in our rule book, he’s going to the ground and has to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire act of the catch,” Cheffers said in regard to Murphy. “And in this case, he lost possession and the ball hit the ground. Therefore, it’s incomplete.”

  39. ok bob s you got me on the regularity of the play. but seriously, explain why a team would want to be up by 5? its pointless. being up by 6 at least gives you hope of blocking a game winning extra point, as doubtful as it is. and my second point wasnt aimed at your post, i’m gonna have to be more clear next time.

  40. For what it’s worth, the Raiders have benefited from the two of the worst calls/rules in the history of the game and nobody should feel badly for them. The first was the phantom roughing the passer call on Ray Hamilton of the Patriots giving the Raiders an extra down and a ticket to the AFC CG. The second, of course, was the ridiculous “on purpose” forward fumble which caused the NFL to change a rule. Of course, last night we got to see them play in the worst facility in all of the NFL with their ridiculous fans dressing up as if it were Halloween. The Raiders aren’t yet good enough to hate again and won’t be winning anything anytime soon with Russell at quarterback.

  41. “A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by a defender) must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone.”
    A: The ball wasn’t loose when his feet hit the ground. He secured it from that moment all the way until after he his butt hit the ground and he landed.
    B: He does not have to maintain possession infinitely. He needs only a moment of possession for it to be a touchdown and he had that and more.
    “If he loses control of the ball and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception or recovery.”
    I suppose he did that twice: once at the very end of the play and once when he tossed the ball to the ref. Seriously, he did not lose control until well after he had hit the ground. The ball was not loose until he hit the ground at the end. Should have been a touchdown.

  42. “For what it’s worth, the Raiders have benefited from the two of the worst calls/rules in the history”
    Yep, they have had two go their way. For those two, I can name four off the top of my head that went against them: Immaculate Reception, Lytle fumble, Tuck Rule and now this phantom incompletion.
    I’ll bet that if we tallied up all the controversial calls from all teams that the Raiders would have twice as many against them as the next team.
    And yes, I agree that the Raiders are not going anywhere with Russell at QB or Davis as owner.

  43. I totally understand the rule that in the end zone the player must maintain control of the ball all the way to the ground. However, here’s what I don’t understand about that particular ruling…
    Murphy’s ass hit the ground before losing control of the ball. Since he was touched by a defender, once his ass hits the ground, with total control of the ball, shouldn’t the play be over at that exact moment?

  44. They couldn’t even get the names of the players right. Who is Todd Light anyways?
    Suzy Kobler must be looking forward to covering the Jets. Not only will their QBs talk to her, they want to kiss her.

  45. If that play happens anywhere else on the field, it’s a catch since he’d be down when his rear hits the field.

  46. NFL should do it like NHL does. Once it goes to replay, rule experts and former top refs of the NFL sitting in their head office in NY or wherever with all the rules in front of them and monitors for every single game being played in the room – ref on the field should tell them what his officials saw BUT head office should make the call NOT a ref running around like a chicken with his head cut off.
    A much better system to avoid the league then being forced to give excuses and bs statements about Hochulis, Chieffers and tucks.

  47. “If that play happens anywhere else on the field, it’s a catch since he’d be down when his rear hits the field.”
    No, it doesn’t. See play at 3:15.
    The same rule that made the Weddle play incomplete is the same rule that made the touchdown play incomplete.
    Both parts of the following sentence have to be true:
    When catching a ball ON THE WAY to the ground, you must maintain possession of the ball until AFTER the completion of the play.
    So, two feet down, butt-contact, end zone line, and all that don’t matter.
    Having said that, and even with the Charger-fan disclaimer, I still think this could have been ruled a touchdown. Applying the TB/Rams playoff rule, he looked like he still had possession when the ball hit the ground, the first time. And then when he started getting up, it hit the ground. My only guess is that the ref was saying the ball was moving the whole time between those two points. Meh.
    See play at 1:45.
    Still pisses me off, though, when the announcers get rules wrong. Because then all the fans watching get it wrong. This rule was used in the 2005 playoffs, when Tampa’s Chris Simms threw a seemingly completed touchdown pass in the final seconds that was ultimately ruled incomplete. Tampa again! The announcers should know better.

  48. From the official NFL rulebook…
    “A forward pass is complete when a receiver clearly possesses the pass and touches the ground with both feet inbounds while in possession of the ball.”
    Watching the play that is EXACTLY what happened.
    The guy caught the ball, had both feet down AND clearly had possession of the ball.
    As a matter of FACT, he landed on his behind and his elbow as well.
    If the NFL is going to say that he did not have possession (which is a lie) then how do they justify the Jeremy Shockey catch in New Orleans the day before?
    Never saw a review or them nitpicking that TD.
    Anybody with a set of eyes and not lying to themselves could clearly see the NFL took away a touchdown from that kid.
    It’s a shame.
    This time, the ESPN guys had it right.
    For them to overturn that call was criminal.
    Looks as if Mike Florio has become the NFL’s head apologist.
    Congratulations Mike, keep lying to yourself.

  49. We can argue about this damn rule all day. When push comes to shove, the Raiders had plenty of time afterward to react and win the game. In the end, they failed. The loss is not the fault of the TD being overturned. It was the same thing that has effected every other close game with the Bolts over the past six seasons. The failure to take the lead and hold on to it until the end. There was no excuse for letting the Chargers go over 80 yards in a little over two minutes.
    One thing is for sure. This is a better Raiders team this year, and if the Chargers plan on going to the Super Bowl, they better up their level of play a hell of a lot more. They got blown off the ball pretty much all night long. They aren’t going ot win anything playing like that.

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