Facemask fouls aren’t reviewable, but they should be

USA TODAY Sports

Monday night’s game included a blatant facemask foul that was missed by the officials. Under the current rules, it’s a penalty that can’t be called via replay review.

It should be. Unlike judgment calls, no discretion is needed to determine whether the video evidence shows a clear and obvious grabbing of the facemask.

It won’t be until at least 24 owners decide to make it reviewable. That should be a no-brainer for March 2023.

The inability to review a missed facemask foul becomes even more glaring when there’s a review otherwise occurring. That’s what happened in Commanders-Eagles. Philadelphia tight end Dallas Goedert‘s facemask clearly had been grabbed and pulled. He fumbled. The question became whether Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis was down by contact before scooping the ball up and returning it for a touchdown.

“We didn’t see a face mask on the field,” referee Alex Kemp said in a post-game pool report. “As far as the review, we were reviewing whether he was down by contact or whether it was a fumble and then whether the Washington player who recovered the ball was also down by contact.”

The ruling on the field was touchdown. It was overturned via expedited review. But the video suggests that, by the time Davis had the ball, he wasn’t being touched by Goedert. More importantly, it wasn’t “clear and obvious” that the ruling on the field was incorrect.

It’s hard not to think that the decision to take the touchdown off the board was influenced, consciously or not, by the fact that a facemask foul should have wiped out everything, including the fumble. Regardless, the rules should allow a quick and easy fix to such a clear and obvious mistake.

It’s one of the NFL’s obligations when it comes to the ongoing spread of legalized gambling. It’s incumbent on the league to take all reasonable steps to improve the officiating function. This one is reasonable, easy, simple, cheap, and long overdue.

Remember this quote: “Normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalty flags and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving and game-fixing.” It wasn’t uttered by a politician or a pundit. Commissioner Roger Goodell said it in 2009, as the NFL tried to fight the legalization of sports gambling in Delaware.

Now that legalized sports gambling is in Delaware and many other states, the league has to find any and all fixable flaws and repair them, in order to prevent “speculation, distrust and accusations of point-shaving and game-fixing.” After games like the one played last night, that’s exactly what some fans are currently thinking. And saying.

21 responses to “Facemask fouls aren’t reviewable, but they should be

  1. Ref standing right in front. Chose not to call it. That was BS. That being said please don’t make this reviewable. There’s already too many reviews as it is.

  2. THe intent of video replay is to ensure that “they get it right”. If that is true, then why do they stop the process at a point where it ensures they do not get it right?
    In this case the face mask obviously was a strong contributor to the fumble. It is hard for the receiver to concentrate on ball security when his neck is being twisted.

  3. Same with the Vikings-Bills game- so many non-calls. Officials….to say it nicely…don’t do their jobs very well.

  4. I tend to agree making them directly reviewable would be a mistake, but when a play is under review and the ref sees something egregious then they should be able to do something about it. Fumbles and touchdowns can be overturned or scored based on review, with the idea that the refs clearly missed something…So, it stands to reason that if you see something in the review of a play that changes the direct outcome of the play you should be able to also call that.

  5. No, too many things are already eligible for review, bogging down and bloating the game with standard called penalties.
    It’s NEVER going to be perfect. Accept this and move on.

    For better or worse, I’m all for eliminating replay altogether and just accepting that some calls will be missed on all teams.
    Though you’ll still have the clowns that feel the league is out to get their individual teams. So what? Even with replay they’re still there to whine and cry about every call anyways.

  6. Not that he’s earned any sympathy with how weird he’s become since then, but that 2009 season playoff game, Packers at Cardinals, Rodgers got his face mask grabbed so blatantly, it affected the outcome of the game. That should never happen, regardless of which team you cheer for. Not fair to the coaches or players, either. Garbage.

  7. The officiating is bad enough now that everything should be reviewable. The only problem is that current NFL reviews micro-analyze everything frame by frame, with no time limit. There should be a 30 second review period. If they can’t reach a conclusion at the end of 30 seconds, the call stands (or non-call, as the case may be). Coaches should get the same number of challenges they currently do.

  8. Missed calls go both ways, for every team, during every game, thru out every season. Relax Philadelphia, stop moaning about one game, you’ve had plenty of calls go your way and if they were really playing well, they would not have been in a situation where they needed a referee for help.
    You got beat by a team you should have destroyed, but you didn’t.
    If I were an Eagles fan (and thankfully I am not) I would be more focused on the history of the teams who jump out to a great record, a seemingly punched ticket to the SB and how very rarely do those teams enjoy playoff success.

  9. Ref standing right in front. Chose not to call it. That was BS. That being said please don’t make this reviewable. There’s already too many reviews as it is.
    —————————–

    As Belichic said just the other day, EVERYTHING should be challengable at any time assuming that you have a challenge and a time out in your pocket to use. It’s not going to make the game any longer, because they ALREADY HAVE those challenges and time outs. Why make a distinction of ‘If we’re wrong on this set of circumstances, you can force us to correct it, but if its on THIS set of circumstances, you can’t.’

  10. Eagles fan here. Though t I wish they got the calls right, they didn’t cost us the game. Bad and sloppy play cost us the game. The outcome should have never been placed in the ref’s hands.

  11. It’s never been more clear that there needs to be a real time video official in the booth at every game. Here’s how you do it NFL.

    1. Hire a video ref for every ‘crew’
    2. Release a statement that your on field officials are the best in the business, but even the best miss calls. (this reassures the on field refs that they aren’t being scapegoated or punished, just admits the very real fact that things are missed)
    3. This official only gets real time video and has limited access to review the footage. Their primary goal is to only look for blatant and obvious misses. We all know there is holding on every play, but this official is only there for the most blatant of calls that the video can see.
    4. …
    5. Profit

  12. Don’t call a facemask penalty if you see it on replay unless you’re going to allow coaches to challenge a facemask penalty that was called. Remember the “phantom facemask” that allowed the Packers to win a game in Detroit a few years ago?

  13. Instead of a turnover, it should have been 15 yard penalty. The Side Judge was directly in line with unobstructed view of the rule violation. A penalty should have been called & clearly this and other (poor) judgement calls need to be reviewable. Roughing the passer, hands to the face, chop blocks, etc…

    Adding them to the existing challenge system won’t slow the game flow. It will add to the integrity of the NFL.

  14. If there is a limit to the number of coaches challenges then they should be able to use them to review anything/everything. It doesn’t take any longer to review a play based on why they are challenging (except ball spot calls which are already challengeable and take the most time).

  15. Regarding challenges to “holding” penalties, it’s obvious that this subjective call will almost always be upheld. No coach will challenge that penalty, just like delay of penalties. However, what’s the fear of allowing it to be challenged? There are only so many challenges & if it is extremely unlikely to win such challenges.

    I’m really starting to wholly agree with Coach Bill B.

  16. “when a play is under review and the ref sees something egregious then they should be able to do something about it.” What is the definition of egregious? Is it my definition? Is it your definition? Is it the Ref’s definition? Seems to be too subjective and too unreliable of a standard. It needs to be a bright line rule – either facemask penalties are reviewable or facemask penalties are not reviewable. Regardless of what is decided, but it needs to be definitive.

  17. Honestly, I am with you. We saw this with reviewing pass interference. Then we begin dissecting “egregious” and it just turns into an entire mess. Yes, what happened last night meets everyone’s definition of egregious but the next 100 will not. I don’t know how you can fix replay and whoever comes up with that solution is a genious.

    —————
    doesnotmatter says:
    November 15, 2022 at 1:21 pm
    “when a play is under review and the ref sees something egregious then they should be able to do something about it.” What is the definition of egregious? Is it my definition? Is it your definition? Is it the Ref’s definition? Seems to be too subjective and too unreliable of a standard. It needs to be a bright line rule – either facemask penalties are reviewable or facemask penalties are not reviewable. Regardless of what is decided, but it needs to be definitive.

  18. Compromise: If in the course of reviewing a play for another reason, and a flagrant penalty is spotted, call it. Ignoring it went it’s staring you right in the face just seems wrong.

  19. Thw rule change should be…
    “when an automatic review is triggered because of a turn over or touchdown, the official should review if any fouls where committed that impacted the turnover or touchdown”

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