[Editor’s note: Monday’s first-ever episode of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio included an interview with NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino. Many of you (OK, some of you . . . OK, one of you) has asked for the transcript to be posted. Here it is.]
Florio: Let’s just break this down from the beginning, regardless of what was said or wasn’t said on the field, when you see that play, when you see the replay, is that pass interference on the defender?
Blandino: When I look at the play it’s a judgment call, I think it’s debatable. I think the defender’s not playing the ball, I think that’s the first thing the official looks for and then he has to see significant contact that hinders the receiver’s ability to make the catch. There’s contact on the shoulder with the left hand the back judge felt there was enough for pass interference, the head linesman came in from his perspective felt it wasn’t enough that it was minimal contact, the side judge as well, so they decided to pick it up. I think it’s a judgment call, it’s close. I would have certainly supported the call had they left the flag down, but I do think it’s a very close judgment call that could have went either way.
Florio: What do you make Dean, of the shirt grab that you can see, and it looks like that happened right before the ball was thrown, Anthony Hitchens the Cowboys linebacker, clearly grabs and tugs the shirt of Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Should that have been holding, is that part of the interference? What is that?
Blandino: That’s holding. I mean there’s no two ways about it that that’s a jersey grab, that’s a point of emphasis, that’s a foul for holding that could have been called. a jersey grab like that before the ball is thrown it is defensive holding.
Florio: And you say could have been. Could have been or should have been?
Blandino: Should have been, sure. I think had somebody seen it then they should have called it and it obviously wasn’t recognized on the field but that’s defensive holding.
Florio: Now, the administration of the penalty was I would say not ideal. What should have happened in that situation? Because you have Pete Morelli, the referee, declare that it as pass interference and then Morelli said there was no foul on the play. What should have happened ideally in that situation?
Blandino: Yeah, ideally I think mechanically it could have been handled much better. I think we don’t want to make an announcement that there’s a penalty, start to put the football down, and then make another announcement that we’re picking up the flag. We want to get together get all of the information before there is an official announcement, and I think had that happened it would have mitigated some of the response to this. But the head linesman came in, he didn’t recognize that there was a foul initially, he went over to the back judge as Pete was making the announcement. Would have preferred Pete not to make the announcement that quick and to wait get together, talk about it and then decide if we were going to pick up the flag or not. So that part of it I think we could have handled better.
Florio: Dean, it seems like an art form to come up with the right way to explain the things that happen, and every referee has his own style. Ed Hochuli is notoriously verbose in explaining things, but what we got from Pete Morelli was, the initial call, defensive pass inference, and then we got there is no foul for pass interference. What should he have said at that point to better explain to everyone what was happening in real time?
Blandino: I think we wanted to make a clear, concise, distinct, announcement as to why the flag was picked up. That there wasn’t enough contact for pass interference and hopefully that will help explain it, clarify it, so we’d like the referee to give some type of explanation. He did make an announcement, it was as Troy [Aikman] and Joe [Buck] were talking so it didn’t come out very clear over the broadcast, but we certainly wanted to explain concisely why the flag was picked up.
Florio: One of the criticisms raised about this is we’ve got an all-star mash-up of officials who haven’t worked together and that makes it difficult to properly communicate. Rock, scissors, paper, who’s right? Who gets listened to? How much of that is a factor in this and will this renew discussions of just using entire crews rather than instead of putting guys together who haven’t worked together all year?
Blandino: I don’t think that was ultimately the factor that led to this situation happening. I think when you look at the crew makeup, this crew makeup we have four officials who have worked together both the head linesman and line judge were on the same crew all year, and the back judge and umpire were on the same crew all season. We are, right now, we have an individual-based system and that’s been negotiated in the CBA, the current CBA with the referee union. So they bargained for that, so we can’t really do anything other than the crew-based system until after the 2015 season, but I think there’s pros and cons to both. I think communications, most of these officials have worked together some point during their career, I think our mechanics have been standardized, we standardized all our mechanics in the last two years, put together a manual, so it’s not like a team where they have a different game plan and different terminology. It’s pretty standard across the board so officials can move seamlessly in and out of different crews and that happens during the year as well as you have injuries, illnesses and conflict with the schedule so I don’t think that was a major contributing factor. Something we’ll obviously continue to look at after the 2015 season because I think there’s pros and cons to both crew and individual-based assignments.
Florio: Now, another issue that arose after the flag was initially thrown, Dez Bryant, Cowboys receiver runs out onto the field without a helmet on. It’s not the return of the days of two-way players, he’s not coming out to play defense, he’s coming out to argue the call. No flag thrown. Do you agree with that decision?
Blandino: I think we have to look at the rules. It’s not an automatic penalty and the helmet off, I think we have to take that away because the helmet removal only applies to a player who is in the game that he takes his helmet off to either confront an official or an opponent or some kind of demonstration after a play. The officials have discretion there. They have discretion when a player comes off the bench, what he’s doing, is he confronting me, is he confronting an opponent. Certainly would’ve supported a call for unsportsmanlike conduct there had it been made, but it’s in the judgment of the officials and in the heat of the moment they gave the sideline some leeway and, again, it’s not an automatic call in that situation but certainly would’ve supported a call there.
Florio: Now there’s also some still frames floating around of what looks to be either offensive pass interference or grabbing the facemask by Brandon Pettigrew of Andrew Hitchens. Anything that you saw that would suggest that the tight end did anything he shouldn’t have done on that play?
Blandino: I didn’t see much. There is some contact with the mask. He didn’t grab it and pull or twist the head. I felt that was minimal contact. I think if you take the hold out of this hold, the jersey grab, take that out of this whole equation, I think that’s just a tight judgment call, it’s debatable and could have went either way and I didn’t see anything Pettigrew did that would have warranted a foul there.
Florio: One last thing, because the tinfoil-hat crowd is out now because you were on the Cowboys’ party bus back in August and it’s finally come full circle. Dean’s presence on the Cowboys’ party bus means that the Cowboys win on a controversial call. How do you react when you hear that stuff, because obviously it’s all been kicked up again in the last 18 hours?
Blandino: Sure, that’s something that it happened, one had nothing to do with the other. I understand why some people might look at that and there’s a perception there and obviously I’ve been through that and my personal growth and what I need to do. It’s just something that has nothing to do with how the game was officiated. There are calls that go for or against the Cowboys all year. There was a replay review that happened earlier in the game that I’m a part of that decision that went in favor of the Lions. People can believe what they want to believe, but one had nothing to do with the other.