NFL Officials Making Controversial Calls

Staff Writer: Alex Kelly 

On Sept. 6, 2018, the NFL officially started back up with the 2017 NFC Divisional Round rematch featuring the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. However, the buzz didn’t start until the very first NFL Sunday on Sept. 9.  

The focus is around a certain rule on roughing the passer, and fans and players alike are all in disgust. Early in the off-season, the NFL added a new article to its roughing the passer rules.  

The new article, Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 of the NFL rulebook states: See picture below. 

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The written rule from the NFL Rulebook regarding quarterback hits. 

Photo Credit: 

This rule has not only fans asking for answers, but even players are questioning the new addition.  

One of the most prominent players with this issue is none other than Green Bay Packers’ linebacker, Clay Matthews. Matthews, who was called for breaking the new rule in three straight weeks, was very unhappy with the officiating. 

After being asked about the calls after his third offense, Matthews spoke out stating, “When you have a hit like that, that’s a football play. Unfortunately, this league’s going in a direction a lot of people don’t like. They’re getting soft.”  

“Ridiculous. I find these roughing the passer calls to be the most absurd thing in all of sports right now,” stated William Callahan, a senior and Packers fan at Woodstock.  

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A picture showing two different hits on a quarterback, one clean and one a foul. 

Photo Credit: @zachkruse2 

However, Matthews isn’t the only player getting cheated out of these calls. Star pass rushers like Sheldon Richardson, Grady Jarrett, Carlos Dunlap, Myles Garrett and others are receiving these controversial calls on what could’ve been clean sacks.  

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The hit that was called roughing the passer on Carlos Dunlap. 

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“The men out there on that field are trained to take hits. They are trained to be tough and get knocked down to get back up. The fact that the league has to baby quarterbacks now is beyond me,” said Michael Harper, a sophomore at Woodstock.  

Although, the roughing the passer rule isn’t the only new addition to the rule book that has people questioning NFL officiating. Going back all the way to 2014, the NFL has been getting slammed for its catching rule. Originally, a player making a reception or interception must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground, meaning that if you were to lose control of the ball upon contact, the catch would be ruled incomplete. Now, the new rule states that a catch is determined by control, being inbounds, and a football move which could be tucking the ball away, reaching for the goal line, or a motion to ward off an opponent.  

The play that sparked the rule change was an overturned catch by Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James. The ruling on the field was that he caught the pass and maintained it into the end-zone for a touchdown. Upon further review, the officials overturned the call because James didn’t “survive the ground”, meaning he didn’t have full control over the ball upon contacting the ground. This then would end up being the losing factor in that game for the Steelers.  

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Pictured above is Jesse James’ overturned touchdown pass. 

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However, one of the most famous and worst overturns was on former Dallas Cowboys’ receiver, Dez Bryant. In the divisional round of the 2014 playoffs, the Cowboys faced a fourth down late in the fourth quarter against the Packers. Tony Romo, former quarterback for the Cowboys, took a deep shot to Bryant on the left side of the field. Bryant made the catch, muffed the ball upon hitting the ground, but kept full control of it. The officials saw otherwise. The ruling was that Bryant didn’t maintain full control of the ball after falling to the ground, therefore causing the Cowboys to face a turnover on downs, losing them the game and ending a very impressive 2014 season.  

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Sequence of the overturned reception by Dez Bryant. 

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“Dez caught it. All I have to say,” said Radi Krastev, a senior and Cowboys fan at Woodstock. 

This overturn is what ultimately started the “what is a catch and what isn’t” debate.  

In conclusion, the new changes to the NFL rules could both help and hurt the league at the same time.  

When asked about the new rules, Thomas Stint, a junior at Cherokee Highschool said, “In my opinion, when it comes down to the final play or potential final play, the refs shouldn’t call a roughing the passer call that will cost the team a game. It isn’t fair to the player or the fans.” 

Evidently, the roughing the passer rule changes could keep Quarterbacks safe since they must be brought down in a way that isn’t supposed to hurt them. The downfall to this, however, is players and fans watching their teams lose or struggle dude to these unnecessary flags giving the opposing team a fresh set of downs. The catching rule on the other hand is an improvement in NFL rules. Although the rule has cost teams some games in the past, those overturned receptions back then, would be called a clean catch today. In the end, the NFL is making a lot of changes to their rulebook, and there seem to be more changes coming. 


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