NFL needs much more transparency, clarity when it comes to controversial decisions

NFL: SEP 26 Packers at 49ers
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During football season, the Commissioner isn’t the most important person in the league office. The most important person in the league office is the person who periodically provides important explanations and information about controversial calls and decisions.

Currently, that person is, well, no one.

When Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino served as the in-house officiating chiefs, both made regular efforts to discuss on various media platforms the difficult decisions that get made in real time. They did it extremely well, admitting mistakes when necessary (despite the oft-petty internal reaction from game officials who don’t like being held publicly accountable) and providing useful information that would then be used to help the media and, in turn, the audience better understand how it all works.

Currently, there’s no transparency. There’s no one who is made available to talk to radio or TV hosts. There’s no regular officiating video. It all stopped once it became apparent that former officiating chief Al Riveron wasn’t suited for that aspect of the job. It hasn’t started again now that Riveron is out and Walt Anderson is in.

As a result, media and fans are basically on their own when it comes to understanding these situations. Yes, it’s nice to hear from Blandino and Pereira. But they don’t work for the league anymore. It’s critical that the league identify, hire, and deploy someone who can and will explain the close calls, the controversial rulings. Who will admit errors when errors are made.

On Sunday alone, at least three significant issues emerged. First, the delay-of-game mechanics that allowed Baltimore to avoid a five-yard penalty that would have pushed it’s game-winning field goal try from 66 to 71 yards. Second, the non-call of an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver in crunch time of the Packers-49ers game. Third, the curious decision to allow Davante Adams, who absorbed that hit, to return to the game so quickly.

Without someone who could be mobilized quickly to explain these situations on public platforms, the impression is created that the league has buried its head in the sand, hopeful that silence will cause the conversation to move toward something else. The problem is that, in the absence of an explanation, those inclined to believe that the outcomes sometimes are rigged (they definitely are not) will have a tangible basis for believing that they are.

Consider this email we received this morning: “Should [have] been a delay of game. Lions get screwed again. Give me a damn break. There is no buffer damnit. The league screwed the lions yet Again. Just like they were protecting the 49ers last night against that sh-thole team from Green Bay. Lions always get screwed.”

While no amount of explanation could make that specific Lions fan feel better, any effort at transparency is better than, you know, none.

In this regard, a statement from the league issued to a reporter employed by the league with said reporter adding some more information leaked to him by the league and that props up the league’s position is not good enough. Someone needs to give a face and/or a voice to these decisions. Written words won’t cut it. To get the non-captive media and the fans to buy in, we need to see it and/or hear it.

The league generally needs to be spending a lot more time imagining the intersection between the explosion of legalized sports betting and the urgency not only to improve the accuracy of calls but also to create the impression that the league is doing everything it can to get all calls right. Having someone who can provide the important service of explaining these things persuasively and transparently would help, tremendously.

And, yes, it all comes down to dollars and cents. The league, as Blandino has said, doesn’t value the position. Currently, the league is getting exactly what it’s paying for. Which is, both as to cost and benefit, nothing at all.

42 responses to “NFL needs much more transparency, clarity when it comes to controversial decisions

  1. …like overturning rulings on the field that show a runner’s shin hitting the ground, but they reward the TD anyway. Or when a lateral pass is blocked and recovered by the defense. Yes, we do need clarity.

  2. The delay of game non call was appalling..wasnt even close. Same with the hit in the packers game, the hit on Adams? was so obvious I have NO idea how that wasnt flagged with all the iffy stuff they toss yellow on

  3. It does not appear that the NFL front office cares about getting the calls right. Transparency on how they got the calls WRONG is not the answer. If they cared they would take steps to correct the blatant officiating blunders DURING THESE GAMES. They have the ability to do this and they appear disinterested. I am starting to think they actually WANT the controversies from the officiating problems.

  4. Since many of these errors are blatant and egregious, having a figurehead to either circumvent through some long-winded, bogus explanation or offer a half-hearted apology that results in no change or repercussions in real-time officiating, what’s the point? It seems it would only rub it in further, for both the fans and the shafted teams and players

  5. It’s like the old Lily Tomlin skit on SNL: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

  6. The protocol states he must leave the game if he has a concussion.

    It doesn’t state he must leave the game because a bunch of haters WISH he had a concussion.

  7. These things have happened routinely to the Lions so trust me when I tell you, having post-game transparency means absolutely nothing. What we want is the official on the field to get the frickin call right, not have a league official explain the inexplicable the next day.

  8. If I didnt know better the head ref last night had money on the game or a relative of his did. Cant tell me those obvious bad calls, hey they were not even close, were mostly against the Packers at key times. I mean you expect a guy who is in the air going at the QB to stop dead once the QB throws the ball? Since when? The QB when they run are runners and can be hit too.
    I told wife why isnt there a ref in the booth who is over seeing the refs. We all have bosses. Except the refs apparently

  9. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In the eyes of the league, it ain’t broke. Obviously, and it can’t be any more obvious, it’s better if the league has control over certain things. The big money everyone is making is due to the TV contracts. The TV ratings are what generates the big money TV deals. If people turn off their TV’s because a prime time game is a blow out, that’s not good for the sponsors who are paying big money for those contracts. It was very obvious that they didn’t want the game to get out of hand. Sponsors aren’t getting a good return on their investment if nobody is watching their commercials. So instead of having a twenty year discussion about how they can do a better job officiating, wouldn’t it make more sense to try to understand why the league wants to control certain things. It’s all about money. It’s just like trying to understand why politicians make certain laws that don’t seem to benefit the people, but they make tons of money for private industries who donate lots of money to campaigns. That’s just the way the world works. The NFL is just doing their part. You want perfect officiating? Start your own league. Good luck getting a TV deal.

  10. You forgot two critical non PI calls that went in favor of the Raiders. Will Fuller was mugged at the goaline in OT. It should have been first and goal from the 1 yard line. You also had several ticky tack personal fouls on Miami tackling close to the sideline.. A few plays later Brissett gets smacked with a lowered helmet and no penalty. It’s infuriating to see how games are called in the NFL.

  11. Detroit did get SCREWED AGAIN! The clock was expired for almost 2 seconds! So, either the time keeper on the field had an agenda, or he should be fined/fired for incompetence.

    Detroit will get a nice apology from the NFL, but it still doesn’t matter because they still get screwed and a loss.

  12. If the refs would have called the penalty like they should
    have the Ravens would not even have attempted the
    71 yard FG due to the 10 second run off rule.

  13. “The league generally needs to be spending a lot more time imagining the intersection between the explosion of legalized sports betting”

    I’m tired of it being constantly implied that betting is the only reason things need to be done well. Like a true fan seeing his team cheated is a second class citizen compared to a guy with a couple bucks on the game. Such a tail wagging the dog way of looking at things.

  14. When the Pack got hosed on the Fail Mary – a game that had huge ramifications on playoff seedings months later – Goodell was asked about it a few days later and laughed and said something to the effect of, “that’s the beauty about football, we can look at the same play and see 2 different things.”

    They. Don’t. Care. They probably love the attention the bad calls are getting. It won’t change anything, we’ll still watch because we’re essentially addicted to it, and stuff like this will keep happening.

  15. Not to mention, the no-call for intentional grounding before the last play of the first half when Lance scored.

  16. Wait, are people upset as if the NFL is a product featuring athletic competition? Negative. This is an entertainment broadcast, and we’re not here to get hung up on details. Just to sell merch and ads.

  17. supercharger says:
    September 27, 2021 at 11:00 am

    The Lions got robbed. AGAIN.


    Can we stop pretending that the Lions didn’t have some beneficial no-calls in their favor? Please?

  18. I don’t believe there is some conspiracy or NBA-like scandal in play. But we know for sure the NFL is perpetually in the business of marketing new stars. Now that KC is 1-2, it will be interesting to see how the media and NFL come to Mahomes’ support. It’s strange that Josh Allen isn’t getting the props he deserves, especially given the NFL continues to hype Lamar to the moon despite him basically throwing the game away yesterday with another bad interception. The non-call on the delay of game was ridiculous. And don’t get me started with the NFL’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach with Watson compared to Goodell’s prior treatment of Brady and Zeke Elliot…

  19. I mean … if the hit didn’t actually occur, in the minds of the officials, why would he have to go thru protocol?

  20. The only problem I have is it seems the lions are ALWAYS on the wrong side of these. And I’m a Vikings fan.

  21. The NFL as usual, is just saying, “You don’t like it? T.S.” and of course, we football fans have to take it.

  22. Let’s not forget the blatant grounding no-call by 49ers immediately before the TD heading into halftime. Should have been 17-0 at the half.

  23. I will say this yet again. The reason replay or even those calls that are not reply eligible are a result of 1) Not wanting accountability of the referees; 2) Inconsistency; 3) Misguided priority. Hard stop! If you are going to have replay, then the first and foremost priority should be to get the call correct! If you are going to stop the game to discuss, nothing is worse than NOT getting the call correct. stop hiding behind the not enough evidence to overturn, or the call/non-call is unreviewable, or the ever popular make a call, and the teams have a right to challenge. All those lead to inconsistency, and do not place getting the call correct as the most important aspect. Lastly, give each coach 2 challenges a half, without carryover, on everything. Keep the last 2 minutes every call gets reviewed, as well as all TDs and turnovers.

  24. I counted at least 7 obvious helmet to helmet hits in yesterday’s games and while a couple were flagged, non was as blatant as the hit on Davante Adams.

    If the league is truly serious about enforcing the rule and actually invested in player safety they need to start flagging every player that lowers their helmet to initiate contact. It shouldn’t matter if that player is a LB, DB, WR, or a star QB that is scrambling.

  25. I am starting to think they actually WANT the controversies from the officiating problems.
    The NFL is not in the football business. They are in the entertainment business. Having you talk about them during the week, outside of games, IS their goal.

  26. dvdman123 says:
    September 27, 2021 at 11:29 am
    If the refs would have called the penalty like they should
    have the Ravens would not even have attempted the
    71 yard FG due to the 10 second run off rule.


    This isn’t true, the clock was stopped because Lamar spiked it on the previous play. 10 second run-offs only happen when the clock is running… so instead it would have been 2nd down with 7 seconds left 5 yards further back. Would the lions have given enough cushion for a 5 yd out route that gets out of bounds? Maybe… it didn’t happen so we don’t know.

    2 other things: 1) The TV play clock isn’t the official play clock, so you’ll need to find an angle showing the official play clock to know how egregious this truly was. 2) The lions were already gifted a TD on replay when the replay clearly showed the runner down prior to breaking the plane. Would the lions have scored that TD? Maybe…. it didn’t happen so we don’t know, but just look to the Ravens – Raiders game to see how a ‘Sure thing’ goal line stand can turn around to a turnover.

  27. Having to explain every controversial call opens up a can of worms for the NFL. Because of the complexity of the game itself (try explaining football and penalties to someone unfamiliar with the game and you’ll know what I mean), there is controversy in every game. How many late-game drives have we seen either prolonged or hindered by suspect illegal contact/d-holding or o-holding calls? How many times do we hear announcers say those calls should not have been made? Or that a genuine penalty should’ve been called, like a pick play? And these decisions are often made at the discretion of a SINGLE referee on the field (out of 7).

    If you start having to explain in detail every egregious call or non-call, all of whom affect a game in one way or another, then you’ll be spending all week talking about those calls instead of the players and teams. Just because the delay-of-game penalty wasn’t called doesn’t mean the game wasn’t impacted already because of earlier calls which went in the Lions’ favor in the game. NFL football and it’s rule book is simply too complicated and too much power is given to a single official on the field to influence the game.

  28. I just dont understand the NFL being so valuable and so watched that they dont have better technology for this. Cameras everywhere. Sensors, lasers, shot clock lights, replay, stadium lights, horns, jumbo boards, etc etc etc. GEESH! Figure it out. Dont put this on 5-6 older guys in stripes. Make the play clock like a shot clock with flashing lights, horns, etc. Or…get this…have a play clock official in the booth some place who has the sole job to watch it and send a signal down if a team doesnt get the play off. OMG…IT IS SO FLIPPING EASY AND THE NFL IS OVER HERE LIKE ….WHAT SHOULD WE DO??? Note: I am NOT a LIONS FAN

  29. How much was won because of that kick, or even on the kick itself? All this gambling makes everything suspect now.

  30. iliketurtles says:
    September 27, 2021 at 11:46 am

    The only problem I have is it seems the lions are ALWAYS on the wrong side of these. And I’m a Vikings fan.


    Spot on.
    Remember the Green-bay game with the PHANTOM face mask on Rodgers giving him the chance to launch the hail-mary that one the game? The finger of the defender GRAZED the mask, and then pulled him around by his collar.

    All AR had to do was LOOK at the REF and OUT came the flag, and his face mask was PROBABLY not even TOUCHED. It was his collar and the ref was screened, but threw it anyway, ONLY AFTER Rodgers looked at him.

    And then of course the “Calvin Johnson” rule of “surviving the ground” rip off.

    Yes, the Lions are cursed. Just asked Stafford, who has appeared to have escaped his hell finally.

  31. The truly terrible no flag and no automatic booth review (inside 2 minutes each play reviewed) yesterday in Detroit is what this argument should be about. The clock was indeed at 0 for about a second plu which was evident to everyones eyes. Were they not watching? That should have been a 5 yard penalty. The CBS clock was without a doubt synced. The booth official can make that call.

  32. The Ravens are total frauds. Outplayed in 3 games straight, and should be 0-3. Things will eventually even out and they’ll be a sub .500 team

  33. We don’t know if the delay of game would have maattered. Sure they would have been put back 5 yards but it still would have been third down and the clock put back, they could have scored a TD on the next play.

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