What has the NFL come to?
That’s the question a good majority of us who watched Monday night’s football game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are thinking today.
‘The Seattle Screwjob’
For those of you who haven’t heard (basically nobody), the game ended in one of the most controversial calls in recent sports memory.
The quick recap:
A last-second, desperation heave from Seahawks QB Russell Wilson heads toward the end zone as time expires into a mob of players. Seattle WR Golden Tate shoves Green Bay’s Sam Shields in the back, sending him to the ground.
As the ball heads into the end zone, Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings appears to come up with the ball, but Tate manages to get a hand on the ball as they go to the ground.
Two replacement officials come in, one appearing to signal a touchback, meaning that he thought Jennings came up with the ball, while the other signaled touchdown.
After a brief discussion, the refs would decide to make a call that will go down as one of the most controversial in NFL history: touchdown Seahawks.
Immediately following the call, social media absolutely exploded, as nearly every Twitter post that I saw was about the call. The nearly unanimous reaction by the nation was that the call wasn’t just wrong, but DEAD wrong.
Now I will admit that I am a diehard Packers fan, but I almost never like to blame the refs for the outcome of a game.
However, this was beyond bad.
The refs missed a clear offensive pass interference when Tate shoved Shields to the ground, which was the first huge error on the final play. I understand that a lot of pushing and shoving happen on last-second Hail Marys, but Tate shoved Shields like kids do when they’re playing 500 during recess.
Secondly, the “simultaneous” catch was nothing short of pure garbage.
I had some people on Twitter (Vikings fans, mind you) trying to convince us Packer fans that it was the correct call because Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Section 5 of the NFL rulebook states: “If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers.”
That is true, but if you read a little further, you will find something more applicable to this situation: “It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.”
This is exactly what happened at the end of the game, as Jennings caught the ball and had it against his chest as he went to the ground, but Tate manages to drape an arm around the ball to at least look like he may have had some sort of possession of the ball, which he didn’t.
In the chaos following the call, the play was reviewed, as all scoring plays are in the NFL.
I was under the impression that you could not review a simultaneous catch, so at first I agreed with the refs when they upheld the call. However, the NFL’s arrogant statement yesterday, in which they admitted that the no-call on the offensive pass interference was wrong but supported the upholding of the call, stated that a simultaneous catch IS reviewable when it happens in the end zone, which to me makes the whole situation even more laughable.
That means that the refs could have corrected their mistake, but just like the call, they blew the opportunity. (The one thing I will say in favor of the NFL here is that they made the right call by refusing to reverse the call a day after the game, because that would have just added to this debacle.)
Anger and Frustration All Around
Packers players were understandably furious after they were screwed out of a win, and many took to Twitter to express their frustration, joined by other NFL players such as Drew Brees. Heck, even Seattle’s backup QB Matt Flynn (a former Packer) admitted that the win was tainted.
But when it comes down to it, I don’t place any blame at all on the replacement officials for the debacle last night.
Sure the ending call was horrific, and there were terrible calls all game that benefited both teams, but I don’t blame the replacement refs. They are in an incredibly difficult situation that has led to this insanity because of the National Football League’s greed, plain and simple.
The NFL has shown its true colors once again by refusing to pay the real refs, who only take up less than 1% of the league’s total income. But the league’s owners are willing to compromise the integrity of the game just to save a little bit of money and because they have to get their way.
Going forward, one had to wonder what effect the Seattle Screwjob will have.
At the very least, I hope it leads to the ref issue being resolved quickly, as this situation has given the real refs some pretty good leverage. But I’m not counting on the league’s owners to be sensible.
I’m holding out hope that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is a smart guy, will try and get this issue figured out. I have always supported Goodell in the past, because I felt he truly cared about the safety of the players, but this ref lockout has made him look like a hypocrite. Not only are the replacement refs hurting the game’s integrity, but their inexperience and lack of authority are compromising player safety.
What exact effect this whole ordeal has on the NFL, the ref lockout, and Seattle and Green Bay’s seasons remains to be seen. I still think that the Pack will figure it out on offense and make the playoffs, but that’s not what’s really important right now.
The NFL has to figure out this ref lockout, because the games are getting hard to watch, and I refuse to watch another moment of NFL football until the real refs are back. The NFL owners have shown that they don’t give a damn about what their product looks like out on the field, they just want to take our money.
These are professional players, and they deserve to have professional referees calling the games.
But regardless of what happens, I can definitely tell you that I will not forget the date September 24, 2012 anytime soon.