Some have suggested (actually, insisted) that the exclusive authority given to the Commissioner in Rule 17 to rectify extraordinarily unfair results does not encompass judgment errors made by game officials. Those taking that position have relied on Rule 17, Section 2, Article 2.
But while a quick and simple reading of Rule 17, Section 2, Article 2 can lead to that conclusion, a more careful parsing of the provision reveals what it does, and doesn’t, say.
Title “NO CLUB PROTESTS” (an important clue), Article 2 states as follows: “The authority and measures provided for in this entire Section 2 do not constitute a protest machinery for NFL clubs to avail themselves of in the event a dispute arises over the result of a game. The investigation called for in this Section 2 will be conducted solely on the Commissioner’s initiative to review an act or occurrence that the Commissioner deems so extraordinary or unfair that the result of the game in question would be inequitable to one of the participating teams. The Commissioner will not apply authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.”
Article 2 doesn’t prevent the Commissioner from deciding on his own to take action in response to “judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials.” Instead, Article 2 expressly (and only) prevents teams from making official protests or complaints based on Rule 17, Section 2.
The purpose of this specific rule seems obvious. If Rule 17, Section 2 were a path for making protests, the Commissioner would be constantly investigating and deciding whether a protest made by a team is valid. Article 2 makes it clear that teams should not, and cannot, rely on Rule 17, Section 2 as a device for initiating challenges to the outcome of games, especially when a team disagrees with the manner in which judgment is exercised.
If the NFL wanted to slam the door on the ability of the Commissioner to remedy an extraordinarily unfair result based on “judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials,” the NFL should have (could have) written the rule to expressly state that the Commissioner’s authority cannot be exercised in the event of “judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials.” Article 2 isn’t that broad; instead, it refers specifically to club complaints based on such matters.
While it’s possible that the sentence in question was poorly written, sloppiness isn’t relevant if/when the time ever comes to discern the precise meaning of the language used. As constructed, the language speaks only in terms of complaints made by teams, preserving at all times the power of the Commissioner to decide on his own to take action when he believes that an outcome creates an extraordinarily unfair result, independent and irrespective of any complaints that the team affected by the extraordinary unfair outcome would potentially try to make.
That’s the interpretation that ultimately gives the Commissioner the power to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Why would anyone think that he would interpret and apply that rule in any other way.