Phantom roughing-the-passer call on Za’Darius Smith could have been fixed by booth umpire

New Orleans Saints v Baltimore Ravens
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As you know, we’re big proponents of the concept of a booth umpire. Specifically, a member of the officiating crew who would be watching what the rest of us watch, and who would be helping the on-field officials get the calls right.

Given that the Ravens proposed this approach in the offseason and that the league has (for now) resisted, we’ll point out situations in which it would have come in handy unless and until it’s adopted.

Recently case in point: On-field officials flagged Packers linebacker Za'Darius Smith for roughing Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, wiping out an interception. There was, however, no helmet contact. No driving of the player into the ground. No multiple steps after release of the ball and impact. No scooping of the quarterback or otherwise extra placement of body weight by the defender on the passer.

Instead, Smith simply hit Winston too hard. Whenever one player legally hits another player that hard in today’s NFL, there’s a presumption it must be illegal, because players rarely get hit like that anymore.

Mike Golic pointed out during Monday’s PFT Live how ridiculous the call was. It was so bad that, in theory, a booth umpire could have gotten in the ear of referee Carl Cheffers and advised him to pick up the flag.

That’s the real purpose of a sky judge or a booth umpire. Giving the on-field officials (who primarily are trying to survive among the gladiators) the benefit of the images and angles that millions see. The sooner that gap is conclusively bridged, the better off the game will be. The bad call on Smith is the latest — and hardly the last — example of it.

21 responses to “Phantom roughing-the-passer call on Za’Darius Smith could have been fixed by booth umpire

  1. That was a terrible roughing call, let’s admit it. However, it was also not a catch on the interception in the end zone by Savage (ball hit the ground), and there was defensive pass interference against Juwan Johnson. Refs were really all over it.

  2. Roughing the passer should only be called if a defender picks up a QB and slams him on his head, three full seconds after the ball is thrown.

  3. Thank you – have been saying that for at least 2 years – after the bad set up for PI challenges. Not to overrule the onfield referees on borderline calls – but advising the refs on obvious calls that change the game. Like the non-call against New Orleans. If the NFL wants to get things correct – or if it wants to be like Major league baseball and let an umpire call a strike on a ball that is obviously 6 inches off the plate – when the technology is there like they use in tennis. Cameras focus on whether the side of the shoe toes the white line or where the ball is when the knee is on the ground – time to just put a guy up there with a direct line to the ref and give him the ability to say – Hey have a look at that -or hey that wasnt a flag.

  4. I saw a couple other QBs get hit way harder and just as legal as the hit by Smith with no flags thrown. The problem with rules like this is that they are subjective to the official calling it.If the official feels it’s too much the flag is going to fly whether or not it’s legal. If the official feels it’s a legal but hard hit, then the flag stays in the pocket.

    The rule leaves too much up to interpretation.

  5. They don’t want to be right, NFL wants the refs to be able to influence the games outcome over getting it correct on the field.

  6. It would’ve made no difference in the game whatsoever but man, that was a beautiful, legal, textbook, snot-blocker of a hit. Are you watching Barr?

  7. The missed facemask on Aaron Rodgers in the 2010 playoff game in OT against Cardinals could’ve been fixed too.

  8. Saints fan here- horrible call, would have been interesting if the int stood as the ball definitely hit the ground, but may have been controlled which would make it a good catch. Probably would not have overturned the call.

  9. At first I thought it was a legit call and I’m a Packer fan. hard hit that happened fast. but dubyada was right, the ball hit the ground so the interception shouldn’t have stood anyway. Packers got Slammed!

  10. Correct, it wasn’t roughing the passer but it also shouldn’t have been an interception because of the blatant PI that wasn’t picked up either.

  11. really really bad call by the refs, now the Packers need to get these kind of calls go against them for the next 10 years so their fanbase can get some perspective

  12. Wasn’t just a bad call for the Packers, it was bad for football. Throwing a flag because a guy legally hit another guy too hard is a very bad sign.

  13. It was a terrible call. There was also blatant DPI on the play. The ball hit the ground and Im not sure if it stands or not (not a definite overturn- but probably not a catch either). In any event, they could still be playing and the Packers would be still be trying to 17 points.

  14. There was obvious ‘on top of the receiver and not looking for the ball’ PI on the same play.
    Let it go!

  15. One of the Rams DBs completely blew up Allen Robinson last night before the ball got there, too and no one threw a flag. There really needs to be a booth ump to call these things.

  16. Seahawks have these phantom calls against them several times a season. Media doesn’t make a big deal of it. But if it happens to the Packers, well then, lets all grab our pitchforks and torches!

  17. He wouldn’t have been called for it if he didn’t leave his feet and plant the QB into the ground. It WAS the right call.

  18. You remember what yall told saints fans? Suck it up and move on, itd a partnof the game, you had your chance?? Hmm? HMMMM?!??

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