Was Steratore’s use of a foreign object allowed?

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Apart from the fact that referee Gene Steratore’s effort to make an inherently imprecise effort seem much more precise made it all seem even less precise to determine whether the Cowboys had successfully secured a first down is a more fundamental question: Are officials allowed to use a foreign object to determine whether a first down has been earned?

Jim Daopoulos, a former NFL official and former supervisor of officials, says that, while there’s no specific rule in place, referees have been told over the years that they are “never allowed to use anything other than their eyes to make that decision.”

After the game, Steratore said that he used a folded up piece of paper not to make the call but as confirmation that the call was correct. Regardless, he shouldn’t have done it, according to Daopoulos.

The bigger question is whether the NFL will do anything to improve the process of determining whether a team has gained 10 yards in four plays or fewer. The 10-yard chain gang is a vestige of the ’20s (or whoever the NFL began using the 10-yard measuring stick), and it’s time to find a more reliable way to determine the line to gain.

Technologies exist for enhancing the function. But the league has stubbornly refused to embrace them.

Instead, the NFL should tear down the entire officiating function and rebuild it, using as many modern technologies as possible to improve the overall process of doing everything that officials currently do as efficiently and accurately as they can. Until that happens, incidents like last night’s embarrassment to the league will continue to happen.

27 responses to “Was Steratore’s use of a foreign object allowed?

  1. They could have used the Miami Dolphin playoff hopes. They are even thinner than that piece of paper.

  2. Was the call right?

    Officials typically use a high tech device called a “bean bag” which they throw in the area to mark a spot if needed.

    “tear down the entire officiating function and rebuild it”
    What could possibly go wrong with that?

  3. That move was a ridiculous old school antic that has no place in today’s game. He might as well have pulled out a comb from his back pocket. And aside from the card maneuver, whether the marker was being held at a 90 degree angle is just as big an issue. I’m surprised there is not a level built right into it.

  4. Finally we agree on something!
    The chain gang is so obsurd…
    Im suprised marshawn didnt storm the field to challange the call.

  5. “That move was a ridiculous old school antic that has no place in today’s game.”

    “Old school”? I’ve never seen it before or even heard of it. It would have been as nonsensical back in leather helmet days as it was yesterday. Your eyes can see if there’s a gap between the ball and the marker. What exactly was the paper supposed to be doing?

  6. This is just getting ridiculous.

    Mark Cuban is right (I want to throw up), NBA games have been packed recently and the influx of young talent going to teams like the 76’ers, Jazz, Knicks, Bulls, Lakers, and Celtics without the activism and terrible reffing is making that game more appealing.

    And the owners moronically extended Goodell.

  7. There was no space between the ball and the chains. Not sure what the outrage is. If it was called the other way, the Cowboys would’ve won the challenge on replay, which showed Dak clearly stretching past the line to gain.

  8. It’s 2017 and we have a multi-billion dollar industry using index cards to determine crucial calls. If the index card didn’t work, was he going to look for a coin in his pocket and just let fate decide it?

  9. So with all of the technology available to the league, they still think it’s acceptable to rely on the eyes of a bunch of 50 year old refs? They’re basically guessing on short yardage plays where the ball carrier is in the middle of the pile.

    Put sensors in the field and chip the ball, problem solved. Or have that guy above with the laser measuring tape attend all of the games, i’m fine with that too.

  10. Meh – I enjoyed it…

    I mean – even I could tell it was REALLY, REALLY, close – one way or the other – from my couch. I honestly think he was like “Dude – that is the *closest* I’ve ever seen one of these come…” – you could tell by his expression.

    Heck – I’d use something something like the card just so I could say accurately say “man – that ball made it by ‘x’ amount” (X being like 1 cm) when i was telling stories over a beer later…

    I must say – all the people complaining about the angle of the stick… um – He’s comparing the nose of the ball to the end of a taut chain. The angle of the stick means nothing as long as the chain is taut. (and if anything – the angle was AWAY from the line of gain – making anything *above* the chain farther than 10 yards)

  11. Gene Steratore really loves his TV time during the games. Look at this picture for this story.Wow. Nobody pays to watch you Gene.

  12. what are you going to do as an alternative? keep in mind the fans will want the visual to allow them to see for themselves that the measurement is legit, or the first down was gained or not gained.
    having a guy with a laser the line of scrimmage and a guy receiving the laser at the spot of the ball is not different than bringing a tangible measuring device like the chains.

    the other nonsense about the chip in the ball; will you have every part of the ball chipped, as you cant just have the ends. and just wait for the day when the chips malfunction.

    very similar to all of the other recent changes, can we please just let football be. the game was fine. tinkering will only make it more screwed up

  13. Even if you laced every ball with a non-harmful substance with a unique radioactive signal and set up a system of overhead sensors that would triangulate the exact position of the ball…. you still need to determine the position of the ball when the player is touched down. How does technology do that for You?

    Quit screwing around with the game. Just hold refs accountable for the quality of their work (maybe pay them well? Anybody think of that??) And play the damn game!!

  14. The phantom OPI against Cook which negated a TD was a much worse call.

    The missed FG immediately after did not help their cause.

    Either way, the Raiders fouled the bed…again.

  15. Let’s just turn the whole NFL digital and have each owner hire a 15 year old kid to play against another one using Madden. No more chain gangs, refs, or concussions.

  16. Steratore using a foreign object sounds like something you’d see in the WWE. I wouldn’t doubt if Steratore also had some thumb tacks, brass knuckles or a singapore cane stashed away in his pockets.

  17. Arguments against a chip in the ball are so ridiculous. Don’t make changes to improve the game. Why don’t we stop using replay because the camera might fail?! chip the ball use it to identify the spot and the whole game becomes more real. The spot where the ball is placed is simply a judgement. So what are you really measuring – the lineman’s best guess at where it got to. Chip the ball accurately place it and that will determine the spot on every play. Electronically determine if it is a first down or not. Fear of technology is stupid.

  18. Adam Schefter is hard at work uncovering the details of Steratore’s deal with Staples (“Official index card of the NFL”)

  19. Notice the certain people who always complain about the “activism” LOL.

    At least it is having its desired purpose. You’d ignore it or be totally oblivious to it if any activism was done where people like you THINK it should be done.

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