Leighton Vander Esch: We’re playing more against the refs than we are other teams

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys
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Referee Scott Novak’s crew blew it. They ruled Chase Edmonds down when replay showed the Cardinals running back fumbled before he slid to the ground with 2:51 remaining in a three-point game.

Osa Odighizuwa recovered for the Cowboys for what should have been their ball at their own 29.

Alas, the Cowboys couldn’t challenge the play because they were out of timeouts, having used their third one after the previous play. It was not an automatic review because it wasn’t ruled a fumble on the field.

The Cardinals thus celebrated a 25-22 win, running out the clock, while the Cowboys contemplated what might have been.

Owner Jerry Jones seemed unbothered by the blown call, but the Cowboys defenders were hot under the shoulder pads.

“It was totally a fumble,” Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch said. “I just don’t understand how with the technology that we have today, even if we don’t have timeouts, or whatever it may be, to . . . [not be able to] challenge it. It’s so obvious. Certain things are so obvious in games that refs are messing up. Why aren’t they fixing it? It doesn’t make any sense to me. To me, we’re playing more against the refs than we are other teams.”

Fans and media have called for the NFL to fix its officiating all season. Vander Esch echoed that, wondering why a billion dollar company can’t get it right.

“If you look around the league, this isn’t just the first time it’s happened,” Vander Esch said. “There’s other guys around the league that have been dictated from, I don’t know if it’s incompetence or what it is. Doesn’t make sense to me, and it feels like it’s not hard to fix that.

“If it’s so blatant on the field and so obvious, why the [referee in the replay booth] isn’t radioing down, ‘Hey, get this right.’ That’s not hard. That’s the ethics of the game. Getting it right. ‘Hey, you made a mistake, here; get it right. Here is the right call.’”

The Cowboys had 10 penalties for 88 yards, many coming in third-down situations. Jones said the Cowboys knew “this group [of officials] calls a lot of ticky-tack . . . they call a lot of penalties.”

“You can’t get a rhythm. You can’t move the ball,” Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb complained. “Every big play was called back because of some kind of call. The refs, I feel like, dictated that game. It’s no secret.”

58 responses to “Leighton Vander Esch: We’re playing more against the refs than we are other teams

  1. Yes couldn’t be the fact that your RB stinks, your offensive line is very good or very bad, and your QB is overrated. You’re an average team with an above average record in a very bad division. You are what you are … #DENNISGREEN

  2. He’s 100% right. These calls on the cowboys especially Connor Williams is getting extremely frustrating. They’re killing Pollards runs. Every time he has a 20+ run it gets taken away. Owners are dictating the game and contracts. Antonio Brown today,yes he is crazy,but they decide to not let him play because if he gets certain amount of touches he would’ve got incentive

  3. Hey now! You weren’t playing the Packers. Their opponents are the only teams that ever have calls go against them!

  4. I would never want to be a ref. Let’s face it, it is not an easy job but if the camera followed around a player on every play and critiqued every play like it was suppose to be perfect how would anyone fair. I think refs have always blown calls. I would like to have someone watch the perfect season the dolphins had in 72 and see if they would be undefeated still.

  5. Blah blah blah. There are blown calls every game. Maybe you should control the way you play, your team was down the whole game.

  6. Are the refs against them when they win a game? Jerrah’s squad did not play with the same intensity as they did last week. Can’t blame the ref’s for that. Wins are earned not given.

  7. OK well and good.
    I saw a lot of nonsense from these officials too.
    Calling Biadaz for a false start but not the movement and bobbing of the Cardinals Center.
    But if Zurlein doesn’t miss the easy field goal they are tied.
    But if Dak doesn’t fumble as he is prone to do maybe they maintain a drive for a score.
    Even I could also sense a fake punt from the Cardinals several states away from the game.
    Stop that and stop a Cardinals drive for a score.

  8. The cowboys suck but it’s no coincidence that the reffing has been pretty suspect since gambling was legalize.

  9. Goodell.

    Anyone who believes Goodell is not dictating why this doesn’t happen in 2022, is a buffoon.

    Even MLB has it right with replay that works and works well.

    Goodell wants to manipukate outcomes even as Congress investigates him.

  10. Maybe if the Cowboys didn’t look so flat all game long,that fumble wouldn’t have mattered. They are going to go nowhere in the playoffs. They can’t beat the good teams.

  11. This and TD reviews are stupid. If a play MIGHT be a turnover or TD, then it should be automatically reviewed. It should not depend on the call on the field.

  12. pkrlvr says:
    January 2, 2022 at 9:53 pm
    The cowboys suck but it’s no coincidence that the reffing has been pretty suspect since gambling was legalize.


    Lol. Reffing has sucked for years. It’s revisionist to say they just started sucking. It wasn’t that long ago the league locked out the refs and tried to implement full time refs and year round training.

    You know what happened? The media which now laments the bad officiating linked arms with the refs in solidarity and made the replacement officials lives hell and waxed poetic about how great the real refs were until the league finally gave in.

    I swear people don’t have a memory longer than 2 years.

  13. As a Cowboys fan, just SHUT UP. we got some calls as well. Maybe not be so slow in training down players in the flat, or overplay a counter before crying about the refs. Losers lament. Parsons wasn’t saying anything like that. He said you had to do better. Pull up your pants and start playing because you’re going to be playing great teams in the playoffs. Winners find a way

  14. Did Vander Esch play a perfect game? If not he should work on his craft rather than blaming others.

  15. I was rooting for the Cardinals on this one. Having said that, the officiating in the NFL os absolutely atrocious. For all the money they rake in, it’s pathetic that they don’t care about getting it right. Not saying call every single penalty….the game would slow down WAY too much. But for crying out loud, get the big calls right. And stop determining the outcome of the game!

  16. So Leighton…

    Explain to us what happened the last drive of the game??

    You know the one where the Cardinals got the ball with just under 5 minutes left…

    You know.. the one where the Cardinals never even had to run a 3rd down play to continually rack up first downs…

    This was a Cardinal team that was without their grinder in James Conner…

    You let Kyler Murray transform into Oklahomas J.C. Watts (look him up) and easily run out the game… unaided by any penalties…

    You were outplayed today… outcoached to…

    Man up

  17. Almost all games has blown calls. Why are the Cowboys whining. Their owner didn’t push for better technology. There is no conspiracy to make Cowboys lose – they are a big brand that NFL wants to win.

    Let’s face it. Cowboys had been wearing out their shoulders by patting themselves after beating NFC Least. Reality is that they have a crappy run game. One legit receiver (Lamb). Cooper is a fraud. Dak has been playing average and that OL is overrated.

    Moreover, the D has looked spectacular playing against atrocious offenses. Other than that they have been average at best.

    Jones desire to play Madden with his team has come true – just a video game team.

  18. If you make the plays available to be made, you don’t have to worry about a blown call. That said, in the same way that scoring and turnover plays are automatically reviewed, maybe plays in which an official’’s call denies a scoring or turnover play should also be automatically reviewed.

  19. Cowboys blaming everyone but themselves. All the talent in the world, at home, healthy and they finally play a legit playoff team and CHOKE. The media should spent more time covering these guys every week. If only they could play teams fighting amongst themselves every single week. Ohh and they gave Aaron Rodgers week 18 off, a playoff bye and homefield…..

  20. But…but…but wait a minute!
    It’s MY team (insert team name here) that the refs are biased against!!

  21. That was NOT fumble. His head was on the turf. That’s the equivalent to a FOREARM or SHIN/KNEE.

    I despise poor officiating as much as the next man but the that was DOWN BY CONTACT

  22. Get real. NOBODY here get’s that call right without the benefit of their 70″ 4k tv, with multiple cameras with amazing optics, tight zoom and ultra high res beaming crystal clear images into America’s collective recliner chair. And the reason Dallas couldn’t review is they got suckered and confused on a 4th and goal in the 3rd quarter, had to burn a time out, and then had an embarrassing moment where the ref had to explain to McCarthy what happened. You got beat. It wasn’t the refs, it wasn’t some conspiracy. You got beat by a team that came into your home stadium and stuffed you. Happens to every team. Accept it, move on.

  23. The NFL has players and coaches making 7 and 8 figures, legalized gambling, hundreds of millions in revenue from broadcast rights — and part-time refs.

  24. Maybe if the dallas defense didn’t panic and blow a timeout when the cardinals were lining up for a 4th down attempt in the 3rd qtr then they would have still had that 3rd timeout in their pocket. 🤔

  25. Oh no, Skip Bayless will be off the rails tomorrow on his show.

    The problem with Leighton’s narrative is most of the ‘fans’ of the NFL think the Cowboys are right behind the Packers in getting all the breaks.

  26. What team in NFL history has gotten more gifts from officiating than the Cowboys? They’re so preferentially treated they expect it as a right.

  27. But…isn’t that why you save that last challenge? When I watched the play live, I didn’t see a fumble. Neither did the announcers. It looked like the runner was down. With the right camera angle, and slowed down to single frame views- yes, it was a fumble. But it was far from obvious watching it at full speed.

  28. VanderEsch come on man. There were plenty of times you don’t get there quick enough
    to make the play. 2 easy interceptions dropped on drives Arizona later scored on ain’t the refs fault. Get those and it’s a Dallas win.

  29. 40 million/yr for an average QB. There’s a good chunk of the Cowboys’ problem…..

    McCarthy mismanaging timeouts AGAIN, didn’t help either.

  30. A smart ex retired player said in the course of a season the bad calls even out thru he year.

  31. Or maybe don’t waste timeouts so you have one to challenge? The pi calls were legit, unlike thanksgiving

  32. Did they get the fumble wrong? Yes. BUT had the team played better, the kicker wasn’t horrible [Should have been cut 10 games ago] and the HC was well actually a HC they would have won. I’ve been a Cowboys fan for over 40 years and since “Jerruh” bought this team it’s main goal was never winning it was cashing in. Cowboys fans, so far from what I’ve seen, will just keep handing over money to this team because they are like horses being led by a carrot at the end of a string. Let’s just start here -> Dak is NOT an elite QB. Sorry if that’s something you can’t live with but he’s just not. He cannot carry a team by himself. Look at his throws… either at the feet or over the head. These were easy throws to wide open guys. They only look great against untalented teams and that’s the way it is. Against playoff teams they have beat one. One out of 6. They are 1 for 6. This does not make a playoff team. They have looked horrid over the last 2 months and I would lay money on after they lose in Round 1 of the playoffs or maybe even Round 2 that they will say Dak was battling nagging injuries… wait and see. That gives the fanbase hope that [and here comes the battle cry of Cowboys fans] Next Season we will win the SB. This is how ‘jerruh’ keeps you around… and spending your $$$. This team doesn’t have to win it all just enough to keep you interested. It’s been 20+ years…when are you going to wake up? When are you going to stop making the Joneses even more money when you’re getting nothing in return? They lost this game by themselves, period.

  33. Leighton, that’s a great subject for a conversation with your owner. Talk to him. Promise him you’ll keep his thoughts confidential. There’s a reason the refs manipulate the outcomes of games. The owners are making unprecedented money from TV revenue. But talk to Jerry Jones. He’s probably the most powerful owner in the league. He had the power to implement technology, but they don’t want to necessarily get all the calls right, even though they can do it without causing any delays. It’s a business thing. Money.

  34. A true loser mentality don’t look in the mirror blame someone else for your failures….

    Unfortunately this starts at a young age in sports.
    Mi have a friend who refs high school and youth football (yes we know it’s not the same level as the NFL) but the excuses are the same.

    He’s says over and over a team can lose by 40 points and all you hear from the stands (parents ) then trickles down to the coaches then the kids. “The refs cheated”

    Nothing about how your team fumbled the ball 4 times. It’s always “the refs”

    So the kids grow up with this loser mentality

  35. No dog in this fight. But outcomes have been swayed for years. Just enjoy it and hope your team is on the winning end of the fix.

  36. I’m sorry we can all day loser mentality or bad loser but just like the chiefs article earlier this isn’t the 1st time this year or in the previous years that bad referring has effected outcomes of games. The nfl needs to take a very long look a reforms this off-season. Maybe add a overwatch ref in the box to review penalties, something has to be done cause basically every big you watch the referring stands out and for the wrong reasons…

  37. There were back to back LAME PASS INTERFERENCE calls against the Cards and they still won.

  38. I guess they stopped drug testing the NFL, dude is out of his mind. AZ had to overcome phantom PI calls all day.

  39. Lol, look at what the refs did to us! When a bad call cost you a potential berth in the superbowl then I’ll listen to your complaint.


    Saints fans and every other fan base.

  40. Funny how the Cowboys always whine about the refs when they lose. However, I’ll say that was a fumble but if McCarthy hadn’t wasted his last timeout then they’d have been able to challenge and won the game. Yet McCarthy complains about the refs and not the terrible use of his timeouts.

    The fact is the Cowboys lead the league in penalties but it’s not as if their opponents aren’t getting flagged. The Cowboys have had 122 penalties to lead the league. Hoewever, their opponents have been called for 118 penalties. Not much of a discrepancy to cry about. They don’t cry when they get a bunch of penalties and win.

    Here’s a thought. McCarthy could learn how to coach. He could teach his team to not commit so many penalties. He could learn how to make judicious use of his timeouts.

  41. you got to like a 11-5 team complaining that the refs are out to get them. Yea the cowboys would be 16-0 right now if it wasn’t for the refs.

  42. Ah yes, the victim game…. In Truth, they are correct it was a fumble. However, there was an entire game when they could have made other plays to win. Every team has had too deal with a bad call from time to time. Please self reflect on the entire game and not just one play.

  43. Ah yes, whining about officiating is always the classy route to take. Coaches make bad calls and mismanage the clock, players miss tackles, miss throws, drop passes and blow blocks…..and we think because there’s video every call should be “fixed?” If we really wanted to do that with video, guess what we’d be calling holding or pass interference on every play. Let’s allow for humanity in the game. We’ll fix all the calls when Mr VanderEsch makes every tackle and never gets beat.

  44. The Cardinals also had key penalties against them as well… the Josh Jones penalty on the first drive.. which they had to settle for a field goal…

    And the Josh Jones holding call which they managed to overcome on the first TD to Wesley…

  45. Watched the game live, the RB had one knee hit the ground before the ball popped out. So much crying for the Cowboys.

  46. The Cowboys had 10 penalties for 88 yards, many coming in third-down situations. Jones said the Cowboys knew “this group [of officials] calls a lot of ticky-tack . . . they call a lot of penalties.”

    I wonder which group of officials the Cowboys get in the wildcard round? Keep whining, Jerry.

  47. Change of possession calls should always be reviewable or challengeable, no matter if a team has timeouts or not, because of the implications these calls have on the outcome of the game. Just give the coaches one challenge each half without timeouts being taken away and then the coaches decide what calls they want to spend it on. And please add a skyjudge, so these calls are corrected by the ref crew themselves. It saves a lot of unnecessary time that is spent talking to coaches whether they can challenge or want to challenge a call.

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