An AFC North Perspective On NFL Officiating


The Baltimore Ravens have been on the upsetting side of a bad call made by NFL officials numerous times this season. There was the game in Arizona where there was an interesting take on forward progress and John Urschel was penalized despite clearly reporting as an eligible receiver. Daniel Brown’s touchdown against the Dolphins was called back, yet instant replay showed he did not push-off the defender. The Jaguars got one final snap off to beat the Ravens despite the game clock reading 0:00. Needless to say Ravens fans are not thrilled with the state of NFL officiating.

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The opening night of the NFL Playoffs ended with a controversial battle between AFC North foes, the Steelers and the Bengals. The game was essentially decided by a personal foul penalty that set up an easy field goal for the Steelers. The officiating was inconsistent all night.

Things got chippy in Cincinnati, to say the least. The referees surely had their hands full with two teams that completely disliked each other. By calling an inconsistent game however the officials escalated the anger of the players.

For example the officials flagged Vontaze Burfict on a shoulder to shoulder hit on Markus Wheaton. In more ways than one it was a bang-bang play but it should not have been a penalty (in my opinion) The Steelers player went down hard and the flag was thrown as a reaction.

Later Giovanni Bernard took a helmet to helmet hit and was down on the field for a long moment. There was no flag. The defender lowered the crown of hos helmet and speared it into Bernard’s helmet but that was not deemed penalty worthy. One cannot help but see the inconsistency with the officials in this instance.

That was the moment things got out of hand. The Bengals became angry that their teammate could take a hit like that without penalty. That is the moment the battle took an escalated point of no return. The Bengals may not have handled it well (neither did the Steelers) but that error by the officials was the reason control of the game was lost.

That is the main problem. Nobody knows what a catch is anymore. Nobody knows what is and isn’t pass interference any more. On any given hit you can get ten different people to give you ten different answers. The subjective nature of the referees’ duties and the thickness of the rule book makes the officials job more complicated than open heart surgery, or at least it feels that way.

As displayed late on Saturday night, AFC North football games tend to be more physical and contentious than many other games. Therefore as a Ravens fan I have an interesting perspective on the NFL’s officiating lackluster performance.

There are two main problems with NFL officials in today’s game. Too often games are decided by the referees rather than the players on the field. Secondly officials are inconsistent.

Late in the game a penalty has to be clear and without a doubt to the official. A questionable call should never decide the outcome of a game. Officials who let defensive backs actually play all game long, and then tighten up and call everything pass interference all of the sudden, do the game a disservice.

Inconsistent refs make no sense because rules are not inconsistent, they are rules. Points of emphasis is the worst phrase in the officiating lexicon because every rule should be enforced the same. This concept is one that a toddler can grasp.

I’m still salty over Steve Smith’s offensive pass interference call from a year ago that took away a Ravens win against the Bengals. But at the end of the day the officiating problem is only getting worse. Until football fixes this problem it will be a black eye on the sport.