Monday, January 14, 2008

The Referees: Our Opinion --
Our Final Word

Update: 1/14/08 1:00AM EST
The entire discussion -- both amongst fans and Pittsburgh media -- as to the quality of the officiating in the Jacksonville v. Steelers game has, for the most part, concluded. But like any powerful entity the National Football League has insisted on having the final word.

Officials are chosen to work the playoffs based on merit -- i.e. those who performed most capably during the regular season were selected for the Wild Card weekend, and those who were judged to have performed most capably that weekend moved on to the Divisional round -- and as it turns out every one of the officials who worked playoff game between the Jaguars and Steelers moved up to the Divisional Round. In fact, the entire crew for that game, except for Back Judge Bill Schmitz, stayed together and officiated the game between San Diego and Indianapolis (Mr. Schmitz worked the game between Seattle and Green Bay).

We're sure it's just a coincidence that in both games that Gerry Austin was the referee the visiting teams were victorious.

Update: 2:00AM EST
It seems as though some of the Steelers' players are not as willing as we were to look beyond some missed calls. The following is an excerpt from an item in Monday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"Penalties were kept to a relative few Saturday night, but apparently that's what bothered some Steelers the most -- too few penalties.

The Jaguars had six penalties for 40 yards and the Steelers five for 50.

Linebacker Larry Foote intimated that a huge hole in the Steelers' defense that quarterback David Garrard ran through for 32 yards on fourth down to set up Jacksonville's winning field goal came about for reasons other than good blocking.

Foote complained to officials on the field and it was the only topic he broached briefly in the locker room before leaving.

'You'll see a big old hole open up, and you'll see the reason why. That's all I've got to say. Thank you.'

Steelers linebackers were upset by what they felt were non-calls, particularly holding by the Jaguars.

'I'm the wrong person to interview,' Clark Haggans said. 'You might want to interview the referees. Plain and simple, that's it. I don't have anything else to say besides that.'

Said James Harrison, 'I have nothing to say about that. I ain't got no fine money to give away for talking about them blind refs, so I got nothing to say'
."


Original Post
We've encountered some Steelers fans who have complained bitterly about the officiating in the Jacksonville game; and we must admit to having been tempted to including a discussion about this issue in our post-game wrap.

Sean Mahan holding on the two point conversion attempt? It really didn't look that way. However, James Harrison was held on very nearly every passing play, and on David Garrard's 32-yard, fourth quarter run both Mr. Harrison and Troy Polamalu were held.

Frankly, Hines Ward did have his hands in the face mask of Brian Williams -- illustrating the point that penalties are in the eyes of the beholder.

However, the referees had nothing to do with Ben Roethlisberger throwing three interceptions.

The referees had nothing to do with the Steelers not getting a first down with less than three minutes to play in the game, and in the lead.

The referees had nothing to do with a 16-yard punt return by Dennis Northcutt, thereby allowing the Jaguars to begin their winning drive from their own 49-yard line.

There isn't a game in the NFL where penalties couldn't be called more often, and while it can be argued that the failure to make certain calls had an impact on a particular play the reason the Steelers lost has to do with the plays that they made (Ben Roethlisberger's interceptions) and didn't make (not covering a kickoff well enough to keep Maurice Jones-Drew from breaking off a 96-yard return).

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