Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Nov 2005

NFL Admits Referee Mistakes to Seahawks

It's not as much of a problem as it could have been, since Seattle won the game anyway, but yikes. The refs rarely admit to screwing up one call in a game, let alone two touchdown calls.

Update 6:30 PM Eastern: In the interest of fair reporting: "The report that the NFL informed the Seahawks of officiating mistakes on two Giants touchdown receptions is inaccurate," NFL Vice President of Public relations Greg Aiello said. "Our officiating department never discussed with the Seahawks the Amani Toomer touchdown reception, which was properly called. The Jeremy Shockey touchdown catch at the end of the first half was not overturned, because the referee determined that there was insufficient visual evidence to reverse the call." (Thanks to reader Bockman.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 29 Nov 2005

47 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2005, 5:42am by Calbuzz

Comments

1
by Bockman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:26pm

This whole story it total B.S. They reviewed both plays and they were both upheld. If anyone can tell me definitely that both were not TDs, they're a liar, because it was too close for anyone to tell.

2
by Jersey (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:32pm

Shockey TD was definately not a td. I guess I'm a liar.

3
by ToxikFetus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:32pm

Re 1:

I agree that these calls should have been upheld since they didn't have the "indisputable visual evidence" for an overturn. If they had been called the other way on the field, those calls should have been upheld as well.

In the end it doesn't matter since Seattle won the game and the world got to see the Jeremey Shockey doubletake.

4
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:33pm

Where's the apology to the Jets?

5
by Johnnyel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:33pm

Oddly enough, I think this is the kind of thing that adds more credibility to the system than never admitting mistakes. I think it'd be better if the league would release acknowledged officiating errors to the public. Since they are likely to be fairly well spread around it could go a long way toward dispelling the myths of teams getting systematically favorable calls.

6
by Johnnyel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:35pm

Re #1:
If its BS, why is it on NFL.com's front page?

7
by Jon T. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:41pm

RE #2:
One thing I noticed on the Shockey Td is the DB clearly thought Shockey caught the ball. Otherwise why would he have quickly scooped up the ball and taken off the other way. If he was trying to claim it was a fumble, then it was a TD first...end of play.

8
by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:43pm

What I'm surprised about is how quickly this was made public. They couldn't have reviewed the calls before yesterday, and the release was this morning.

I'm sure there's some sort of internal referee accountability, but making more of these public could add an interesting FO data point on ref accuracy/quality.

9
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:51pm

Does anyone else think this information is never made public if Seattle loses?

It's easy to admit fault when mistakes don't cost a team the game...

10
by Craig B (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 12:52pm

"One thing I noticed on the Shockey Td is the DB clearly thought Shockey caught the ball. Otherwise why would he have quickly scooped up the ball and taken off the other way."

Jon, a lot of defensive players pick up loose balls and run the other way with them, whether the whistle has blown or not. I wouldn't be judging a catch off of that.

11
by MJB (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:16pm

RE: 7

After seeing the replay a few times I noticed that Shockey never actually got both feet down before getting hit and dropping the ball, so it should of been an incomplete pass.

Also, it looked to me like Armani Toomer's front foot actually landed on the white chalk of the back of the end zone, so it should not even matter if he pitter-pattered his other foot since he was already out of bounds.

Just to note I am not a Seahawks fan, but I am biased against the Giants, so if you want take what I pointed out with a grain of salt.

-MJB

12
by ChrisS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:23pm

#1 I'm also a liar. I thought neither was a TD. Shockey never came down with two feet before he had the ball knocked out. #7 there is no such thing as a fumble (by the offense) on a pass into the end zone. If it is a catch it is by definition a TD otherwise it's an incompletion. The Toomer catch was a harder call but part of him (I forget what part) was OB before he got the second foot down. The replay system is a waste of time and should be ended. Now instead of just screwing up the original calls the refs have additional chances to screw up calls.

13
by Seattle Doug (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:37pm

I don't have a problem with the Toomer call, save for the fact that in Nemmers' call after the review, he indicated only that the receiver's second foot touched the ground. The question in that call is did he get it down before his first foot touched the chalk. Even as a Seattle homer, I couldn't say for sure which happened first, but the referee didn't indicate that he had even looked at that aspect.

The Shockey ruling was much more questionable. And again, Nemmers' explanation left much question as to what he was looking at.

On a tangent, there is the Phil Luckett factor. Can the league keep him away from games between Seattle and New York teams, for the integrity of the game, please?

14
by dave (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:41pm

One other factor to consider on the Shockey TD - which I never thought was a catch - is that Seattle's rubberized field turf generally leaves a scuff mark when players drag their feet. (Not as drastic as the first season but still quite noticeable.) Shockey's foot never left a mark. That TD ruling to my mind changed the course of the game (though obviously not the outcome). It was 3rd down and NY would have had to settle for a FG attempt.

15
by pawnking (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:41pm

Speaking of Shockey, where can I join the "Shockey-is-the-most-overrated-pass-dropping,-showboating-crybaby-in-the-NFL-who-has-been-completely-overshadowed-by-other-tight-ends-but-still-gets-credit-because-he-plays-in-New-York club?"

16
by Walt Pohl (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:46pm

I thought the replays were clear enough that both touchdowns should have been overturned, but the calls were not so egregious that it was an injustice that they were upheld.

17
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 1:59pm

Re #9 - in 1997 the Broncos beat the Chiefs 14-10 in the playoffs. Elvis Grbac looked like a fish out of water trying to drive for a TD in the last 2 minutes, but actually got them close to or in FG range.

The significance of that?

Chiefs lost a FG earlier in the game when holding was called on a made attempt; on the 2nd try 10 yards back the kicker missed. Impossible to know if the game would have played out differently, but being behind 14-13 is much different than being behind 14-10 at the end when you're trying to score.

The Chiefs' FG that counted came after Gonzalez made a leaping catch in the end zone and was knocked out of bounds. The referee did not rule a force out, instead he made the call that Gonzalez would have landed out of bounds anyhow. No TD, Chiefs kicked the FG. If that call had gone the other way, it might have been 14-14 at the end when the Chiefs were driving.

After the game, the NFL told the Chiefs both calls were wrong: there was no holding and Gonzalez should have been ruled to have scored. Either call might have made the difference; both together almost certainly did (oh, would this have made Elway a loser?).

Again, it's not possible to know if the outcome would have been altered, but it's at least arguable that the blown calls cost the Chiefs the game (and they would have homefield the next week vs. the Steelers for the AFC title game).

My point is the NFL WILL admit mistakes even if the game's outcome might have been affected.

18
by calig23 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:01pm

Can the league keep him away from games between Seattle and New York teams, for the integrity of the game, please?

And Pittsburgh games (Coin toss). And New Orleans' games (Getting in the way of Joe Horn, I think, as he tried to go for a TD).

19
by calig23 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:09pm

Re:#17

Do you know how long an AFC Championship game would have taken between Schottenheimer's Chiefs and Cowher's Steelers? With both teams trying to choke so hard, no one would have won.

20
by Cal (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:35pm

At least the Seahawks are getting respect from the NFL...no one else (as in the media) seems willing to give them any...Although an ESPN writer did call the Seahawks a "team of destiny" after the Giants game, which I find fitting.

21
by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:40pm

I thought the NFL issued these letters all the time, it's just that teams don't always make them public. I know last year the Bills got one after the Raiders game because they were screwed out of points twice and possible points once. The mistakes cost them the game and then they ended up one game short of making the playoffs. It doesn't excuse their performance in the other losses but having that week 2 victory might have made a big difference in um...swagger.

22
by WalterJonesMVP (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:53pm

Here's a question: is there an official NFL policy on referees explaining challenged decisions? What was so infuriating about the Shockey TD -- apart from the fact that it wasn't a TD -- is that the ref just came out and announced "The ruling on the field stands." Isn't there supposed to be some attempt to explain *why* the ruling stands?

I pause to note that if the ref had announced "the receiver gained possession in the air", the crowd would have gone mental, since the issue supposedly under review was whether both feet landed.

So is there an actual policy, or is it left to the refs to decide how loquacious they want to be?

23
by Nolan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 2:57pm

Hello neither were touchdowns you could see that from the replays. remember how great these referees can be aka Vinny Testverde's touch down in New York

24
by Josh (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 3:39pm

On Toomer's catch, I thought it was reasonably clear that he got his first foot down, and goe the second foot down, but that his first foot was on the ground out of bounds when he got the second down, and therefore it should have been incomplete.

Jets still need to gettheir apology (though they might not mind either, better draft position)

25
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 3:44pm

Does this web page need a break in it, or is it just me?

Also, is the FO site running VERY SLOWLY the past 2 days, or is it just me?

26
by Geoff C (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 3:58pm

I'm glad the NFL is finally starting to officially own up to officiating mistakes. I presume I can expect their apology to my fantasy team for the shockey TD costing me a win this week soon.

Also, I'm still waiting for my apology from Trent Green for throwing that meaningless TD pass at the end of the Denver game earlier this year.

27
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:24pm

Does this web page need a break in it, or is it just me?
Also, is the FO site running VERY SLOWLY the past 2 days, or is it just me?

to answer them in order: yes, no, yes, no

28
by admin :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:35pm

Just a reminder: Benjy's probably not going to see your technical complaints if you leave them in discussion threads. If you think the site is running slowly or has a problem, use the contact form and let him know.

29
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:44pm

I actually only saw the second questionable play, but here's my take:

On the first play, everyone here seems to be in agreement that the ball came out before both feet touched. In general, you have to "maintain control to the ground" to catch a pass in the end zone (the Patriots had a TD called back last week because of this), so as long as people agree that the ball came out before the reciever was on the ground, it should not have been a catch.

I actually thought the second call (which I did see) was good. The reciever's left foot landed near or on the chalk, then his right toe touched in bounds, and then he went to the ground, maintaining control of the ball. As long as that first foot never touched the white, it should be a catch. The call on the field was that it didn't touch white; the replays that I saw were at best inconclusive, although there was one shot that seemed to confirm that his left foot was fully in bounds (although it was blurry and his shoes were white, so it was hard to be sure). Inconclusive evidence, or possibly corroborating evidence--the call should stand.

30
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:49pm

Re: 24

Is 'reasonably clear' as good as 'indisputable'? I thought the heel of his first foot was on the line before his second foot came down, but I wasn't surprised they didn't overturn the call. What did surprise me was the length of time it took them to rule it a catch/touchdown in the first place. When it takes that long, I'm convinced nobody really knows what the correct call is. In that case, the 'indisputable' standard works against getting it right.

31
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:51pm

lol @ #27. Also what is wrong with #1 is he/she mentally ill?

32
by ian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 4:52pm

I think that what the league is saying is that before the challenge, the officials on the field made the wrong call and that, given that wrong call, they were unable to use replay to overturn the call on the field.

The implication of what the league is saying by ruling on this quickly and publically seems to be that the onus is on the offense to prove they have scored a TD, not on the defense to prove they have defended it, which is exactly the opposite of what took place on those two plays. These aren't the only TDs in close games recently that have been ruled 'default score' and then the defense is forced to challenge and trust that the Fox or CBS cameramen have been paying attention, and it sort of makes sense that the league would be sensitive to the problem and looking for a way to set a precedent to their officials.

The Giants' scores were in a big game that was closely contested all game, and neither was a scrum where there is no chance to get good replay footage, like the TB two point conversion a couple of weeks ago. Essentially the lesson is that the "right" way for the Giants, or any team that scores on a questionable play, to have gotten points on them would have been for the ruling on the field to have been incomplete pass, and for the Giants to challenge and have the replay overturn the call on the field.

(Though neither replay, in my opinion, showed 'irrefutable evidence' because both managed to be in parts of the field where the only cameras capturing the feet and the ground showed, in Shockey's case, a dark show on dark turf, and in Toomer's case, a white shoe on white turf.)

Ironically, as I was watching the game, I wasn't mad about the calls on the field or the replay results until it looked like the Shockey fumble in OT might not get called, then the feelings of injustice started to well up because then it stops being several isolated incidents that went against my team and becomes a series of common acts that goes against my team. Nothing rational, just thought it was interesting.

33
by Bockman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 5:28pm

League just released this statement:
“The report that the NFL informed the Seahawks of officiating mistakes on two Giants touchdown receptions is inaccurate,� NFL Vice President of Public relations Greg Aiello said. “Our officiating department never discussed with the Seahawks the Amani Toomer touchdown reception, which was properly called. The Jeremy Shockey touchdown catch at the end of the first half was not overturned, because the referee determined that there was insufficient visual evidence to reverse the call.�

34
by mtf (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 5:38pm

Here is the actual NFL statement. Toomer's catch was a touchdown. Shockey's catch was too close. Mike Holmgren should know better than to resort to this.

“The report that the NFL informed the Seahawks of officiating mistakes on two Giants touchdown receptions is inaccurate,� NFL Vice President of Public relations Greg Aiello said. “Our officiating department never discussed with the Seahawks the Amani Toomer touchdown reception, which was properly called. The Jeremy Shockey touchdown catch at the end of the first half was not overturned, because the referee determined that there was insufficient visual evidence to reverse the call.�

35
by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 6:03pm

As indicated in the article, the more egregious error, in my opinion, in that game, was forcing Seattle to take a time out in order to give the official enough time to know to review the Shockey catch and fumble or no catch.

It was clear as the play took place that it wasn't clear if Shockey had even caught the ball. Why was Holmgren forced to waste a time out?

Later in the game, the officials quickly reviewed a catch by Bobby Engram. The Giants weren't forced to waste a time out, because the official were, at that point, on top of the game. What happened earlier.

Brian

36
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 6:03pm

Hah!

The NFL still won't admit their mistakes!

At least Seattle won the game... compared to the Jets and Redskins two weeks ago.

37
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 6:22pm

I guess I'm still in the minority, but the game was, to me, another argument against having instant replay at all. The last five minutes of regulation plus overtime took about an hour and a half, and seemed like three hours, in no small part because there were constant long delays while plays were being reviewed. What should have been a great game became tedious to watch. And it's not like the reviews seem to have satisfied anybody. Just play the damn game.

38
by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 7:39pm

Re #37: That's why I DVR the games. You get to skip over all that crap (as well as the commercials).

As for the NFL admitting their mistakes, remember the Giants-49ers playoff game a few years ago where the Giants had that botched FG at the end? The NFL admitted the officials totally blew it by calling a penalty on the Giants for an inelligible receiver (who was actually eligible) and not calling the blatant pass interference.

39
by Joey (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 9:17pm

"The Jeremy Shockey touchdown catch at the end of the first half was not overturned, because the referee determined that there was insufficient visual evidence to reverse the call.�

If he couldn't determine that Shockey's second foot never hit the turf, I doubt he could overturn ANY call. That was as clear as you get with a camera right on the play.

The official didn't help matters by failing to elaborate on why the play was staying as called. If he'd announced "there was not conclusive evidence that the second foot didn't hit the ground" then at least you would have known for sure he was on top of the point in question. Instead, he didn't elaborate at all. I wonder if he spent the entire time determining if Shockey had control of the ball and completely forgot about his feet.

40
by thad (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 10:05pm

ummmmm,
I just wanted to pile on and say I disagree with number 1.
And also 36, I would hardly compare the Redskins game to that, good lord.

41
by dfarrar777 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 11:06pm

The real shame of this is that the person who tied Holmgren's comments and the supposed "apologies" together - AP writer Gregg Bell - has not come forward and explained how he got from A to Z here. He should feel compelled to do so.

Holmgren specifically said that he had spoken to the league, but he DID NOT say that the league apologized to him for either call. Holmgren referred to a "brief conversation" he had with a league representative. He mentioned that it did not appear to him that Shockey got his second foot down. He was less sure of the Toomer catch, as most people were.

This was a case where a reporter took the ball and ran the wrong way. Indicative of this may be the fact that at first, Bell's story had New York scoring three touchdowns, not two.

Someone's not checking their work, and this is what the league's reacting to.

42
by CP (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2005 - 11:50pm

The only thing that really bugs me about the whole thing is that a lot of people are talking about this Seahawks win as a gift, due to the three missed FGs. If not for the one bad call (Shockey), and the other possibly bad call (Toomer), that's potentially 14 points the Giants wouldn't have scored, and the game might not have even been close.

43
by Comrade Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2005 - 12:06am

Here's what the Seattle Times has to say:

The first touchdown, a second-quarter pass to Jeremy Shockey, looked to be incomplete after Seahawks safety Marquand Manuel separated the ball from Shockey's hands in the end zone with a jarring hit. It was ruled Shockey maintained possession long enough for it to be a score.

"I don't think Jeremy had both feet on the ground when the ball came out," Holmgren said.

The second touchdown, a pass to Amani Toomer with two minutes left in regulation, was reviewed to determine if Toomer got both feet inbounds along the end line. Holmgren thought it was a great catch by Toomer and didn't seem to be at odds with the call.

44
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2005 - 11:59am

I am amazed at how much controversy the Shockey TD has caused. As an impartial observer I was 100% convinced it was going to be upheld as a TD before the ref announced his final decision because it had been ruled a TD on the field and I certainly didn't see any clear evidence that his foot was off the ground on replay. In fact, I actually thought it did touch the ground and thought the decision to uphold the call was pretty straightforward. You can disagree if you see something in the replay that I didn't, but there's no way it is an obvious blown call.

Regarding the non-call on pass interference in the NY-San Fran playoff game a couple of years ago: I know this isn't what the officials ruled, but I don't think interference should have been called because the pass was uncatchable. It was thrown behind an offensive lineman, who had little idea where the ball was and would have had to excecute the most amazing twisting, diving catch I've ever seen to even get a touch of the ball. Jerry Rice couldn't have caught that pass; a backup O-lineman had absolutely no chance of even scraping a finger on the ball.

45
by mtf (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2005 - 1:27pm

#42 I think it would be one possibly bad call (Shockey) and one good call (Toomer)
The Amani catch came on first down also so you cant automatically say the Giants wouldnt have scored either. And things may also not have played out the same way had the Giants just gotten three points at the end of the half. Its unfair to say the Seahawks couldve won easily considering the teams played each other fairly even for most of the game.

46
by putnamp (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2005 - 2:50pm

Whether the calls are retracted or not, this whole series of events has at least put a little light on the fact that 3 missed FGs was only a single facet of the game, and there were a lot of other things that could've gone the other way that didn't to keep the score that close, that late.

47
by Calbuzz (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2005 - 5:42am

#42 Agreed. Giants, #1 scoring offense, puts up 2 TD's, and somehow "dominated" the Seahawks, who scored 3 TD's.