By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL’s “Super” Wild Card weekend was … largely a dud. Four of the six games were absolute blowouts, and both of the close contests were marred to varying degrees by the involvement of referees and on-field officials.
While the Cowboys were mostly at fault for the frantic ending in Dallas, we unfortunately can’t let referee Jerome Boger and the rest of his assembled crew off the hook for the disaster that was Saturday afternoon’s Raiders-Bengals game.
That game was largely ruined by the officials. They all missed a Raiders player calling timeout, leading to a long completion by Cincinnati and a roughing the passer penalty on Las Vegas being negated. After a long meeting, the officials decided to retroactively grant that timeout to Las Vegas, even though a penalty for too many men probably should have been called instead.
Unreal “my bad” face. pic.twitter.com/zGpU9RZqwo
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) January 15, 2022
Alas, this wasn’t the crew’s biggest blunder, obviously. A highly controversial play before halftime saw Joe Burrow made a dazzling play for a touchdown, sprinting toward the boundary while delivering a strike to Tyler Boyd in the back of the end zone. It was a great play … but the official standing mere feet away from Burrow decided that the QB had stepped out of bounds before releasing the pass, so he blew his whistle while the ball was mid-flight.
Literally everybody in the world saw and heard this happen.
But the NFL wants to convince you that you can’t trust your lying eyes. They want you to ignore what you experienced. They want you to live in the alternate universe where the NFL decides reality for everybody else.
Even though the crew on the field rightfully awarded the touchdown to the Bengals (they deserved it), they also wrongfully applied the rules (the ball is supposed to be dead as soon as a whistle is blown). And after the game (which the Bengals won … by a touchdown), senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson tried to clear everything up by telling us all a blatant, obvious, embarrassing lie.
“We confirmed with the referee and the crew that on that play — they got together and talked — they determined that they had a whistle, but that the whistle for them on the field was blown after the receiver caught the ball,” Anderson said, presumably with a straight face.
Anderson is an older gentleman — he’s 69 years old — so he might not be all the way caught up on things like Twitter or Instagram, and certainly not TikTok. So perhaps he’s unaware that it’s unwise to tell lies that can be easily disproved by simply opening up an application on one’s cellular telephone.
It’s probably not great for Anderson that people can find the footage … on the NFL’s official Twitter account.
— NFL (@NFL) January 15, 2022
The whistle, quite clearly, is blown while the ball is in the air, before it’s caught. There are no audio tricks or delays that could magically make that sound be heard before the whistle was blown.
Yet according to Anderson, the whistle “was blown after the receiver caught the ball.”
That’s at least the story that the on-field crew told Anderson, apparently.
“They did not feel that the whistle was blown before the receiver caught the ball,” he said.
Why the NFL felt the need to treat this play in this manner is anyone’s guess. But it’s certainly insulting.
We’re dumb, sure. But we’re not that dumb.
(Perhaps the NFL knew that it couldn’t say that the rules were intentionally disregarded for the sake of not taking away a touchdown that was properly earned, but … wouldn’t some honesty be preferable to outright lying?)
Anderson’s history doesn’t help him here. He was a central figure in DeflateGate, when he was warned ahead of time to be on high alert for funny business involving the footballs. He then … lost track of the footballs, reportedly blew a gasket while trying to find the footballs, and yet did not use the bag of backup balls that never left his line of sight. He also didn’t record pregame PSI measurements, he forgot which gauge he used to test the footballs, and he forgot whether or not he had conversations with his boss about football concerns prior to the game.
Essentially, DeflateGate could have never existed, if not for Anderson’s decision to willingly go along with whatever tale the NFL wanted to tell. (Happy 7th birthday to DeflateGate, by the way!)
After that, Anderson was the referee during an unforgettable officiating blunder on a Monday Night Football game between the Bills and Seahawks. In that game, Richard Sherman broke across the line of scrimmage before the snap on a field goal and promptly bundled Bills kicker Dan Carpenter. Anderson didn’t blow a whistle on the play. The whistle blew after Sherman hit the kicker in the legs. Anderson then announced a simple offside penalty — with no penalty for the defensive player delivering a huge shot on a defenseless kicker who was kicking a field goal. Anderson then announced that Carpenter was ineligible to attempt the kick on the next snap, because he had been injured on the previous play. The Bills quickly ran a spike, but the officiating crew took too long to spot the ball for the kick on the next snap, and they enforced a delay of game penalty on the Bills.
“I just didn’t feel like the actions and the contact, because we were shutting the play down, warranted a foul,” Anderson said after that game.
He said that about a play where the kicker got hit so hard that the trainers had to tend to him.
It was one of the most embarrassing moments of officiating in modern NFL history. And that’s really saying something.
It was so bad, in fact, that Dean Blandino — the head of officiating at the time — tweeted that Anderson missed the obvious penalty on Sherman and that the officials were responsible for the delay of game penalty.
In the time since, Anderson has somehow been elevated to a VP position, a perch from which he’s using Newspeak to tell us some non-truths.
Such is the cycle of NFL officiating. We don’t expect any better, which really says all that needs to be said about the matter.