Thursday, September 27, 2012

Was Monday's Finish the Worst Call in NFL History?

The regular refs are back, but the scars of Monday night's debacle will linger.

Like most NFL fans, I've been consumed by the aftermath of the Packers stunning loss on Monday night -- lapping up all the news and analysis I can.  It occurred to me that what the media tried to characterize as a "controversial call" was anything but.  There was no controversy over that call.  Everyone knows it was a colossal screw up.

I have never, ever, in my 42 years of watching sports, heard such universal, unanimous, un-wavering agreement by everyone that watched a game that a call was botched.  I have yet to hear a single person defend it.  Hell, I haven't heard a single person even explain it.  The refs on the field Monday night certainly couldn't explain it.  The Seahawks fans can't explain it (every Seattle fan I heard call in to NFL Radio admitted it was a travesty).  Most Seahawks players like Marshawn Lynch have agreed that Seattle didn't win that game.  Golden Tate admitted he pushed off.  Even Pete Carroll can't defend it, offering on NFL Network one of the most talking-without-saying-anything explanations that "Whether they missed the push or not, obviously they missed the push in there, in the battle for the ball.  But that stuff goes on all time.  They see it, they don’t see it.  That happens with the official officials.  And so the result is they called it, the league backed it up, game over, we win."  Nice sportsmanship.  Dick head.

The only people, evidently in the entire world, who thought that play was a Seattle touchdown are side judge Lance Easley, who I think was just confused when he called it a touchdown on the field (back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn, standing two feet away, begged to differ -- as infamously captured in this photo), replay official Howard Slavin and referee Wayne Elliott.  I'm not sure which of these guys got cut by the Lingerie Football League, but it would be hard for any of them to make it even there.  The only thing more insulting than the call, was the NFL's statement in response, which acknowledges both the offensive pass interference and the fact a "simultaneous possession" call can be reviewed (and over-turned), yet at the same time declared the result final.

With such a preposterous conclusion and the hasty resolution of the referees' strike that it precipitated, it begs the question: was that the worst call ever in the NFL?  I did a little research on other notoriously bad calls, and here are the top 5 plays that would even be contenders:

  1. The Thanksgiving Day coin-toss where Jerome Bettis called tails but the referee heard heads.
  2. Jerry Rice's fumble (that was never called) in the '99 Packers-49ers wild card game.
  3. The infamous "tuck rule" game in which Charles Woodson's strip of Tom Brady was over-turned.
  4. The Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris
  5. The Seattle Sacrifice where M.D. Jennings was robbed of a game-winning interception which finally prompted the NFL to resolve its labor dispute.

I believe #5 is your winner for several reasons:

  • No other play (except the Immaculate Reception) decided the game -- they were all pre-cursors that set up the final play.
  • No other play had such indisputable visual evidence -- there wasn't even replay in 2 of the other 4.
  • No other play was so unanimous -- fans from opposing teams in each of these plays saw it differently.
  • No other play was officiated by replacement refs.
It's no contest in my opinion.  The only hopeful news from all this is that the Packers seem to be using it as motivation.  McCarthy, to his credit, seems to have moved on.  That was his, and Charles Woodson's, message to the team.  They can't dwell on this.  They need to get ready for the Saints.  We all can only hope that a one-game difference in record won't come back to haunt them.

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