The officiating in the NFL smells. You know it, I know it and they know it. Now we have an official blowing his whistle for positively no reason, turning a potential touchdown into a 14-yard gain and doing what officials are never supposed to do.
Get in the way.
Wow. What a cluster this has become. Seemingly, a week cannot pass without NFL officials botching something. On Monday, as an improvising Tom Brady rolled to his right and lofted a pass to Danny Amendola, an official at Gillette Stadium needlessly blew his whistle. Amendola then caught the ball and had a wide open field in front of him. A touchdown would have given New England a commanding 17-3 lead.
Instead, Amendola was awarded only a 14-yard gain, though New England was granted an additional 15 yards as a result of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots subsequently missed a long field goal that Buffalo parlayed into a touchdown drive. And what could have (should have?) been a 14-point Patriots lead became a 10-10 tug of war.
In the end, the Patriots won the game. Fine. But the inadvertent whistle was only the beginning of a series of blunders that once again made the NFL officiating operation look like the clown car it is.
Here’s what NFL official Gene Steratore said after the game:
“I think as the quarterback started to get near the sideline and press the line judge (Gary Arthur), who was the official right near the quarterback … Tom (Brady) released the football, the line judge lost track of maybe where the ball was at that point and almost by its own definition, inadvertently blew the whistle. What we do from that point onward is find out where the football was at the time the whistle was blown. We deemed it to be, in our judgment, received by the receiver, as we stated, at the 45-yard line, I believe. And then by rule, what you do with that, or once you determine in your judgment where the ball was at the time of the whistle, if it’s in a possession of a player, which we deemed it to be, you take all fouls then that would have been on that play and you enforce them from that spot of where the ball would be declared dead by the inadvertent whistle. We had a bench-area obstruction foul then, that we actually tacked on to the spot of, I believe we went from the 45 to the 40-yard line, because we tacked on the 15-yard foul from that spot. So that’s what you do with the play, as it goes by rule.”
Fine. But here’s the thing: the whistle didn’t sound while after the ball was in Amendola’s hands. The whistle blew while the ball was in the air, though it was close. Undoubtedly, what Steratore and the officials decided was to give Amendola credit for the reception because, well, the refs screwed the Patriots out of what should have been a huge gain in the process.
Got that? Damn the rules. The refs played God.
Talk about a pig pile. First the refs blew the whistle. Then they blew the call out of guilt. Some justice was served in the end — the Patriots ended up with 29 yards — but how we got there was an absolute calamity.
If you’re a Patriots fan, you have every right to be angry at this. At the same time, you should be grateful that officials were still paying the Patriots back by the end of the game, when they somehow ruled that Sammy Watkins gave himself up on the field when Watkins was, in fact, falling out of bounds with one second left.
In that case, the refs wound the clock, declining to stop it, essentially awarding the Patriots a 20-13 victory that New England certainly earned but, well, you get the idea.
Bleep show, pig pile… call it whatever you want. Whatever the description, nary a week passes without NFL director of officiating Dean Blandino making an appearance on the NFL Network to answer for his stable of clueless zebras.
Lest anyone forget, the NFL is a multibillion-dollar industry, folks. We’re talking $12 billion, $15 billion, whatever. And it’s growing. And yet, come Sunday, when the NFL distributes its product, they’ve got Paul Blart on the sidelines leading a collection of rent-a-cops who are part-time employees in arguably the most successful sports league in the world.
Personally, I think that’s irresponsible and downright squirrely.
But then, if you ran the bulletproof NFL, why would you seek to fix the problem when you clearly don’t have to?
Tony Massarotti is an avid Boston sports fan and has covered sports in Boston for more than 15 years for both the Boston Herald and Boston Globe. He now serves as a co-host on afternoon drive on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. He was a two-time Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year as voted by his peers and has written four books, including “Big Papi,” the New York Times-bestselling memoirs of David Ortiz. You can follow Tony @tonymassarotti.