Referee Gene Steratore’s use of an index card while measuring for a first down in Sunday night’s game between the Cowboys and Raiders has generated a lot of response around the football world.
Former NFL official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos told PFT that officials are “never allowed to use anything other than their eyes to make that decision,” although he acknowledges that there’s no specific rule preventing it from happening.
PFT confirmed with the league that there’s “no prohibition” on using an index card, a sheet of paper or other object in the course of making their ruling. Steratore said he didn’t use the card to make the measurement, but as a “reaffirmation” of seeing the ball reaching the sticks for a first down. Even so, Steratore’s decision has been met with a lot of head-scratching.
In his comments to a pool reporter, Steratore said it has “maybe been done at some point in someone’s career” when asked where got the idea of using the card. Referee Bill Vinovich did something similar during a Browns-Ravens game in 2013 and, as noted in the Akron Beacon Journal at the time, the NFL’s response was the same.