2017 mechanics change gave umpire responsibility for left tackle

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In the pool report generated after Monday’s Lions-Packers game, referee Clete Blakeman said that the controvesial illegal hands to the face fouls imposed against the Lions were called by umpire Jeff Rice. That admission caught the attention of some league insiders.

Prior to 2017, the referee had jurisdiction over the left tackle and whoever he is blocking. The referee would watch the left tackle and his opponent until the pocket collapses, before turning his attention to the quarterback.

The flaw in that approach was obvious: Once the referee turned his attention to the quarterback, the left tackle and his opponent were essentially left to their own devices, since the umpire watched the center and the guards and the line judge (or head linesman) watched the right tackle. This resulted in plenty of fouls that were missed because no one was watching the left tackle and the man blocking him after the pocket collapsed.

In 2017, after Dean Blandino left the NFL and Al Riveron assumed responsibility for the officiating function, the referee became responsible for the right tackle and the right guard, with the umpire responsibe for the left tackle, left guard, and center. (The referee watches the center if he moves to the right side after the snap.) This ensures that someone will be watching the left tackle and his opponent through the release of the ball. (It nevertheless creates a potential flaw when it comes to the right tackle and right guard after the pocket collapses and the referee shifts his attention to the quarterback.)

It means little for what transpired last night; if, however, the mechanics hadn’t changed in 2017, the referee may not have been looking at Lions defensive end Trey Flowers when he was (or wasn’t) putting his hands in tackle David Bakhtiari‘s face. But the players blocking and rushing from the right side are now more likely to get away with some over-the-line techniques after the pocket collapses.

This underscores the potential value of an eighth official, who could monitor the referee’s half of the line continuously after the referee turns his eyes to the quarterback.

Again, none of this should mattered on Monday night, because the umpire got it wrong, twice. When watching games moving forward (and when mistakes happen), remember that it’s the umpire who’s watching the everyone to the left of the snap, and that the referee is watching everyone to the right.

13 responses to “2017 mechanics change gave umpire responsibility for left tackle

  1. That whole article gave me a headache. In a rugby game, there are 30 players on the field at once with one referee. Despite that, or maybe because of that, there is far less controversy. NFL games are over officiated and it affects the quality of the game.

  2. An extra official on the field would not solve the problem. You could have 22 officials assigned to 1 player each and there would still be many incorrect calls. The only possible solution is an oversight officiating component that is well-designed.

    Great game Green Bay! I challenge thee to a game in the future when the rules make sense and are fair so that the winner can be the best team instead of the luckiest team.

  3. Can somebody please check umpire Jeff Rice’s bank account. Something tells me he may have placed a big bet on the Packers winning. It’s the only logical explanation other than he resides in Wisconsin or has a cabin somewhere on a Wisconsin lake or maybe was mugged once in Detroit or just hates Ford automobiles. I guess there are lots of logical explanations.

  4. Yeh but….They still can’t escape the myriad HD camera angles and review processes can they?
    This game is well down the path of no return.
    Got flags?

  5. The last thing in the world we need is more officials on the field. The problem we have now is too many of these officials have no feel for the game. They interpret the rules too literally and are quick to throw a flag on anything, even if it has absolutely zero influence on the play. The only good crew left is Walt Colemans crew.

  6. The refs are only human and mistakes do happen. The reality is Crosby stiil would have made a field goal no matter what. Get over it the Lions lost.

  7. I used to check which officiating crew was working the Packers game that week a few days before the game. Some crews were more flag happy than others back in the day. I no longer check because every crew now is flag happy.

    I miss Gene Steratore and Mike Carey. You knew if either of their crews were working your teams game that it would officiated properly. Now we have no high quality crews left.

  8. He was in FG range on the first one and they were about to punt down two scores and less than. 9 minutes left. The game was over. Mr. Rice saw his bet slipping away and had to pull out the stops to save it. Flowers never called for that penalty in his entire career till that clown needed to save his wager.

  9. The biggest problem is the guys in the booth. If they don’t like the call they yap about it and find some camera angle that shows it was wrong or not as bad, and shouldn’t have been called. The refs have one look and not in slow mo and other angles. Announcers just call the game and keep your opinions to yourselves. Most of you are annoying pains in the butts anyway.

  10. <<>>

    The NFL has said the first hands to the face was correct.

    Why is nobody talking about the touchdown Detroit was incorrectly credited with. That was the biggest bad call of the night.

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