Last week, officials missed a blatant instance of pass interference (actually, two of them) in the win by the Chargers over the Chiefs. This week, it happened again.
On the final play of the Browns-Vikings game, with Cleveland leading 14-7, Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins threw the ball to the end zone on a play that started 32 yards from the end zone. Browns defensive back Greedy Williams mugged Vikings receiver Adam Thielen in the end zone, keeping him from making a player on the ball.
Watch the video embedded in this link. Clearly, the Browns player has Thielen wrapped up and prevented from getting to the ball. No flag was thrown.
Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy has pointed out the failure to throw a flag, saying that he’s “anxiously awaiting” an explanation from the league for the failure to make the call.
He likely won’t be getting one. The NFL has taken a zero transparency approach to officiating controversies, with no one from the league office ever being made available to publicly explain the reasons for close calls and, when necessary, to admit that mistakes were made. The league benefits from bad calls that happen in the cluster of 1:00 p.m. ET games, minimizing the attention given to any specific blunders. By keeping their heads low and their mouths shut, the NFL also doesn’t draw attention to a situation that otherwise could be ignored, or at least minimized.
It’s not a sustainable approach. Without transparency, people will believe that the fix is in. Without accountability, people will believe the fix is in. Without a mechanism for helping people understand why decisions were made (with something more than perfunctory language that fails to delve into the details of each call and non-call), people will believe the fix is in.
In an age of exploding legalized gambling, the last thing the league needs is a critical mass of people who think the fix is in.