What’s wrong with NFL officiating?

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

Officiating has been an ongoing problem that lies within all professional sports. It seems as if nothing has been done to improve the system put in place. Week in and week out, teams across the NFL face calls or “no calls” that are potentially costly in their efforts to improve their records.

In week five of the NFL season, there were not one, but two questionable roughing the passer penalties. One was extremely detrimental to the Atlanta Falcons’ fourth quarter comeback attempt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With three minutes to go in the game, Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett sacked quarterback Tom Brady on third down. After the sack, the Falcons’ defense celebrated joyously as they were overrun with emotion over the big play. Celebrations were cut short as referee Jerome Boger threw a flag for roughing the passer, negating the sack and giving the Buccaneers a first down, virtually ending the game.

With the controversy surrounding the penalty call, the NFL world was searching for answers as to why the official threw the flag. “What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket, and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground, that is what I was making my decision based upon,” Boger said.

The explanation left fans speechless as many resorted to the notion that the “real reason” for the infamous call was due to the status of the involved quarterback, Tom Brady.

The second of the two controversial roughing the passer calls came in the Los Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs game on Monday Night Football when defensive end Chris Jones sacked quarterback Derek Carr, resulting in a fumble which Kansas City recovered. After the play, referee Carl Cheffers called the penalty against the pass rusher, resulting in the Raiders ending their drive in a field goal.

Players around the league sided with Chris Jones as many took to social media to express their opinions on the call. “I don’t know what else Chris Jones can do on that play. And that would not be a call that I’d be begging to get,” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

In 2019, penalties were reviewable, and coaches could challenge the ruling of a flag if they felt it was the wrong call. “If we are going to keep calling roughing the passer at this high of a velocity, then we have to be able to view it in the booth to make sure because sometimes looks can be deceiving,” Jones said. This begs the question, should the NFL bring back the rule that teams can challenge flags?

With this much controversy, it might be time the NFL and the NFLPA make changes on how officials call flags and make a clear distinction as to what warrants the roughing the passer call. Teams should also be allowed to have the ability to review the ruling on the field so games don’t come down to mistakes made by the officials.