Usually, the question of whether the league admits to an officiating error comes up after a game. On Saturday night, it happened during the game.
Sideline reporter Michele Tafoya said after halftime of the NBC broadcast that Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the officials acknowledged “they got it wrong” by not flagging Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson for grabbing the facemask of Lions safety Tavon Wilson with one hand while making one of the best catches of the year with the other.
After the game, referee Brad Allen disputed Caldwell’s claim.
“I did not tell Coach Caldwell that,” Allen told a pool reporter. “I’m not aware that any on-field game official told Coach Caldwell that.”
Allen perhaps should have stopped there, because the rest of the explanation got a little confusing and blame-shifting.
“First of all, that’s not my coverage, because my responsibility obviously is in the backfield with the quarterback,” Allen said. “There were covering officials there who did not rule that there was a facemask on the play. They did rule defensive pass interference, but every play is subject to review by the league.”
Yes, every play is subject to review by the league. But that comes after the fact, when grading the performance of the officials. Whether defensive pass interference occurred or whether Richardson grabbed Wilson’s facemask is not subject to replay review.
Regardless of whether either circumstance should fall within the confines of full-blown replay review, the obvious failure of the officials to spot the clear mistake in real time underscores the need for a video official who is a member of the officiating crew and who operates from booth level with the ability in real time to communicate with the referee and tell him, for example, that there was a blatant facemask foul that the officials on the field missed.
If implemented and executed properly, it would have no greater impact on the flow of the game than a post-play conference among officials regarding what they did or didn’t see — without the benefit of the various TV angles that the video official would be able to watch and re-watch in an effort to get the calls right.
Ultimately, that’s all that should matter. If the integrity of the game is something more than an excuse for imposing discipline against the teams and players that the league chooses to target, these readily available technologies should be embraced and incorporated into the game.
They want us to tolerate human error. When it’s avoidable, we shouldn’t. And neither should they.