Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Nov 2005

Gibbs: Officials Were Wrong

Head coach Joe Gibbs spent much of Monday documenting all the officiating mistakes that cost Washington a win against Tampa Bay. Many Redskins players said the game shouldn't have come down to the final play, but oddly, Gibbs didn't agree: "You'd like to say, 'Well, we don't want it to come down to that' "he said. "But to be quite truthful, up here it can come down to that."

Of course, if it wasn't for one controversial play that favored the Redskins (Ladell Betts' kickoff return for a touchdown), we wouldn't be having this conversation. (free registration/bugmenot required)

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 15 Nov 2005

44 comments, Last at 26 Nov 2005, 11:55am by Bob Palmer


by B (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 10:35am

In other news, Gibbs gets fined for criticizing officials.

by Bruce (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 11:18am

Hey Joe,
You're so right. We got hosed. Ya know what else? If you had thrown a safe pass with 8 defenders in the box with 2 minutes to play, we would have had a first down and that would have been it. This isn't Ritchie Pettibon standing next to you over there. You can't count on this D in the clutch yet. BB

by Jeff J. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 11:31am

I agree with #3, but Gibbs is spot on.

I can't tell you how many people have talked more about Arrington deciding to go airborne instead of wait and plow into Alstott. That's just as much in discussion as whether Alstott made it across.

Big thanks to the Eagles for ruining our chance for 2nd place with a total 4th quarter collapse.

by Jeff J. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 11:32am

Err, make that #2. :D

by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 11:41am

Joe Gibbs is the biggest whiner about ref calls in the league. He does this every week. The great thing about this article is the quotes from players, all of which amount to "just drop it."

by Russell Levine :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 11:56am

OK, so Gibbs might have had a point on the Alstott two-point run. Let's put it this way, if the officials had ruled he was stopped, there was no way they were reversing the call on replay. But none of the replays I saw clearly showed where the ball was when Alstott's elbow touched.

He's absolutely right about the "force-out" call that set up Tampa Bay's first touchdown. Galloway only got one foot down and was not pushed. Terrible call.

But as far as Gibbs contending that the Skins were not offsides on the extra point attempt, he's smoking something. Both rush ends were completely across the line by the time the ball was snapped.

Funny how he didn't mention the favorable review he got on the Ladell Betts kick return either. The 'Skins were so sure that would be overturned, their offense came out on the field around the 40 yard line while awaiting the replay call. That was another one that had he been ruled out of bounds, there was no way it was going to be reversed.

Re: 3, You can't really blame Arrington for launching himself. First of all, he always does that on the goal line. But more importantly, Alstott had gone airborned on the goal line twice earlier in the game.

by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 12:39pm


If you watch the back camera, you can see when his elbow was down. If you watch the goal line camera, you can see where the ball was at that point (short of the line). The officials should be able to watch two views synchronously. If they could, this would have been a relatively easy overturn.

by charles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 1:06pm

it was a homefield call, if the game was in d.c. it would have been overturned, just like if the tuck rule game was in oakland it would have been called a fumble.

by DK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 1:17pm

I still haven't seen a good replay of the offsides call where you can see the center. It does seem odd that the rushers on both ends were staring in at the ball and that they both broke across the line at exactly the same time.

Either the center moved or they were going on a count.

by Art (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 1:22pm

The Betts call wasn't really questionable.

They showed the freeze frame of it like 50 times and it clearly showed that his foot never touched the white line (It just looked like it did since it hovered above it).

by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 1:27pm


Do you really, honestly think that the officials care or make calls based on where the game is being played?

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

For the record, the calls Gibbs were upset about.

1) "Force Out" ruling halfway through the first quarter. Galloway had 1 foot in and the official ruled "force out" on the field, even though that ruling was incorrect. Gibbs flew the red flag, and on tape you can see him saying "But, there was no force out!"
2) Simeon Rice Interception. The CB (Boldin) clearly grabs onto Santana Moss and pulls his jersey no more than 5 yards in front of an official. Some would call this a mugging. The ball deflected off of Boldin and was picked off.
3) Extra Point Block,
The replay angle is slightly behind the line of scrimmage from the side. We don't see the snap and the offsides, but it looks worse than it was because on the replay you see the ball coming out from the long snappers behind with the players across the line of scrimmage.
4) 2 point conversion.

Don't forget the "tuck rule" call that negated a Washington safety may have changed the outcome of the Denver game.

Last week during the Eagles game there was a phantom holding call that negated a first down run by Portis as well. The league issued an apology after reviewing the tape.

I think it's a coaches responsibility to fight for his players publicly. I'm sure in private he told them that the game never should have been so close.

It also should be noted that Dan Snyder is the only owner who didn't vote for a pay raise for NFL officials.

by jim (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 1:36pm

I can not believe redskin fans are so upset.Betts was on the line but it was a make up for the forced out call.If you think 2 defenders were not offsides you are crazy,as for the 2 point conversion if your elbow hits 4 inches from the line that still does not mean that the ball did not cross the line,put a football in your arm and see how far the ball is.Redskin fans it all equals out you got beat just move on,complaining mr Gibbs does nothing but show you are a little baby,suck it up and worry about oakland,your great defense is what you should be complaing about

by JonL (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 1:45pm

RE: #9

It was either Gibbs or the ST coach who said that when the coaches watched tape of Tampa, they noticed that the snapper picks the ball up before snapping the ball, so they worked on timing the rush to that. It appears, though, that Harris and the other rusher (whose name escapes me) went when the ball was picked up, not when it was actually snapped.

by charles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 2:02pm

come on, ever since the cleveland fans threw bottles at the refs because of that overturned call a couple of years back, refs will rarely overturn a call that will hurt the home team in the waning seconds of a game.

by Ashley Tate (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 2:10pm

Gruden Goes For Two: Foolish Folly or Genius Gamble?

(A probabilistic "analysis")

Washington's painful one-point loss to Tampa Bay yesterday was about as gut-wrenching a seesaw battle as I've seen in a while, with huge momentum-changing plays every few minutes, four critical instant-replay reviews, and one unreviewable blown call.*


by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 2:23pm

Officials are human. I'm sure you could go through any game you want, look at detailed replays of every play fifty times each, and find at least ten wrong or at least possibly wrong calls by the officials in favor of each team. The point is, the two teams play with the same officials. It's not like there's one crew on when one team is on offense, and another crew when the other team is on offense. Both teams have equal opportunities, so as long as the officials get most calls correct, the game is fair and Gibbs should shut up.

And unless I'm mistaken, officials are not provided by the stadium or the home team, but rotate around the country for different games, so please, give the ridiculous "home town officiating" complaint a rest.

Also, could people please stop complaining about "tuck rule" calls? The fact is, it's a rule, and officials almost always call it correctly, because it's easy to call. You may think it's a silly rule, but is it any sillier than needing 10 yards for a first down? Why not 8 or 12? Why not use CFL rules instead? I personally think it's kind of silly to require 7 offensive players on the line of scrimmage, but hey, that's a rule of the game.

by johonny (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 2:35pm

I thought the replay was pretty clear Alstott didn't get in. On the other hand does complaining about the refs ever work?

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 2:38pm


I think it's pretty common for long snappers to lift the ball up (slightly) before snapping it. Some have more of a 'hitch' than others. I'm not certain what the written rule is but there seems to be at least an unwritten rule that defensive players are expected to wait until the ball starts back before they cross the LOS.

Out of curiousity, if this guys 'hitch' was that bad, why weren't the 'skins trying to block all the TB kicks?

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 2:47pm


I can remember when I lived in Cincinnati that Sam Wyche used to go through this routine after every loss. After the game and early in the week he would recount the injustices done to the Bengals by the officials. Then late in the week he would go on about how the league office had (occasionally) agreed that, indeed, a call was incorrect. Always seemed like a colossal waste of time to me. Hard to believe that guy's not a head coach somewhere.

by Yuri (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 2:50pm

#16: Followed the link, and I can't really agree with this one:

"[If TB Goes for 2 from the 2-yard line] you drop the Bucs chances of converting from the 2-yard line to 70 percent"

We do not know the exact probability of TB vs WAS. But isn't league historic average just below 50%?

by Ferg (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:32pm

Re 21: I recall hearing something like 40%, probably from Krasker's page.

If you have a 70% chance of making a deuce, you should be going for two in the first quarter.

by putnamp (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:38pm

If this hadn't been an east coast team, nobody would even be talking about it except a few incensed fans.

Let's drop it guys. :p

--Seahawks fan

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:43pm

Re: #18
There are two schools of though floating around Washington fans.

1) Redskins never should have been in that position. If you convert a 3rd and 2, you are able to kneel on the ball and win. If you hold them with your defense you win.

2) The game came down to 1 play, and the Redskins had him stopped. On replay his elbow is down... if the play had been ruled no TD on the field, there is no visual evidence that he "probably" got in. We got hosed.

I don't think the refs were biased. If you assume the crew gets 95% of calls correct, there is a low probability that all of their incorrect calls go against the same team, and have such a high consequence. I believe such a thing happened in this game.

Joe Gibbs is a highly competitive person. His point is, the players should dictate who wins, and not the officiating. Its a matter of sticking up for your players, rather than being a whiner.

Just wait until something happens to the Patriots or in a bigger game.

by Countertorque (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 3:49pm

Re: 18

What do you mean by "work?" You might get a league apology. If you value that, then yes, it might work.

by Playit (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:12pm

For all I hear about how great of a person Gibbs is, he certainly is setting a horrible example to young players in the DC area. Every loss he is on TV for days afterwards saying that his team should have won if not for the penalties. Oddly, there are apparently no blown calls when he wins. It's childish and extremely bad sportmanship. Other coaches have endured much worse calls and have still remained to be gracious to the victors. I'd be embarrassed to be on his team, and reading between the lines on a few of the player's quotes, I think some of them already are.

And here is a news flash to all the appologist on this thread, the redskins aren't loosing because of a bad calls, they are loosing because of a -11 turnover ratio.

by Erasmus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:22pm

Has any team been more helped by bad calls then the Bucs this season or what? The phantom pass interference call on Wiggins in the Vikings games, the fumble call in the Packers game, the Pollard TD catch in the Lions game, and now this game. Thats 4 games that the Bucs could have possibly loss without the benefits of iffy or bad calls.

by josh (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:50pm

He's not wrong. They go the call wrong. If they hadn't the Redskins would have won. It's pretty simple.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:56pm


So it's not whining so long as the complainer is a 'highly competitive person'?

BTW, I am the world's worst when it comes to loudly complaining about (perceived) poor officiating against my favorite teams. This 'highly competitive' angle could give me a whole new universe of excuses.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 4:58pm

Dear Matthew Furtek,

First, quit complaining about the tuck ruling against Denver. Yes, it absolutely changed the outcome of the game. BUT IT WAS THE RIGHT CALL. That'd be like saying that if the refs ruled every incomplete pass a fumble, it would change the outcome of the game. Of course it would. It would also be the WRONG CALL.

Mike Shanahan spoke after the game. He said the tuck rule was a stupid rule, and he was in favor of getting it off the books. But it *IS* a rule, and it *was* called correctly. His arm was well out in front of him, and CLEARLY moving forward. So drop it.

Second, you think that all of the refs calls went against one team in this game? And they were all of huge consequence? Because of THREE CALLS? That's utter bull. I can recall a Florida-Florida State game where the officials botched no fewer than FIVE fumble calls, all in FSU's favor. That is the ONLY game I have ever seen where one team can complain about officiating. Did you watch a play-by-play breakdown of the game? I guarantee you that there were several uncalled holding penalties on Washington. I also guarantee you that there were several uncalled holding penalties against Tampa Bay. And I bet you there was a lot of uncalled pass interference and defensive holding on both sides. And maybe an uncalled horse collar tackle. Unless you go through and track exactly how many penalties went uncalled, you can't say that the other team got all the breaks- especially when "all the breaks" was a blown force-out call, a CORRECT defensive offsides call, and a "can't overturn it either way" ball spot. That's one right call, one wrong call, and one call so close that there wasn't enough video evidence to say either way.

In other words, quit whining.

by owl jolson (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 5:38pm

Since when do players stop playing after a call does'nt go there way. As I recall the Galloway play was not a touchdown, but the skins not holding tampa in the red zone did result in a touchdown.
After the 2pt conversion the skins have the ball 1st and 10 at there own 44 with less then a minute to play. they go 4 and out so fast tampa gets to run the remaining half a minute off on a kneel down.
So I guess Tampa should have just given up after Betts beat them with his magic hoover shoes.
As far as the detroit call goes, it also was not a game ending call they still had two or three shots at the endzone and could'nt convert.

by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 5:55pm

Quit whining about my whining! How does that feel for a rational point to make in a discussion ?

The main point I wanted to make is that it is wholly probable for an officiating crew to make multiple incorrect rulings that drastically go against one team during one game. These instances will be rare, but it *could* happen and I think it did happen on Sunday. If they get calls correct on a 95 % probability, it is improbable that all incorrect calls will be one sided, but there is some chance it could occur.

To recap ALL the points I wanted to make in this thread... so people don't look at the last post only.

(Post 12)
The 2 point call wasn't the only call that the Redskins felt the officials got wrong. Additionally, this isn't the first time a disputed call played a significant part in a game for them this year.

(Post 24)
All Redskins fans are upset about the play of their team during the last 5 minutes of the game, both offense and defense, including me. Some fans feel it should never come down to one play. Other fans feel that the Redskins defense stopped Alstott and should have been rewarded for that great defensive stand.

If a team feels that calls went the wrong way, the one person you want speaking up publicly is the coach. In context, he was questioned by reporters about the calls, and he rattled off plays the Redskins felt the officials blew.

by Tom A. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 7:10pm

In response to #3 (Jeff J.) comment:

Thanks indeed to the Eagles, just as thanks to the 'pokes for letting the 'skins even have a winning record via their 4th quarter collapse. Everything comes full-circle. Your whining is even more annoying than Gibbs' excuses!

by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 7:50pm

Re: #22
The league average seems to always be between 40 and 50 percent. I've always wondered why Pittsburgh doesn't run Bettis from the 2 after every touchdown, their rate of that conversion has got to be well over 50 percent. Of course they're not the only team with this ability, just the first to come to mind.

by Meat Lockyard (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 8:10pm

Does the NFL post it's official rulebook online anywhere? When is a snap official?

And what is wrong with criticizing a call you genuinelly believe to be wrong? After all, the Redskins are trying to win a division where the NY Giants have the unfair advantage of 9 home games and only 7 away! If Dallas beats both teams and the 'Skins get a wildcard, it's moot. But if the Giants make the playoffs by one game, then we have some serious issues to deal with.

PS: Mr. Seahawks fan, if you don't care about east coast teams, leave this thread fo rthe rest of us who do care.

by Browns Dude (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 9:36pm


Good on you for mentioning something that's been bothering me for years.

When it comes down to a late play that will decide the game or just about decide it, the refs will almost always err in favour of the home team.

If that game was in Washington, they would have ruled Alstott down outside the goal line.

A few years back, Jacksonville lost 2 road games on identical plays to the Alstott run. Goal line plays at the end of the game

Since it's a mad scrum, it's difficult to find clear visual evidence either way.

Referees are human. They aren't dispassionate robots.

I kept track of these plays for a little bit, but it got out of hand, so I quit keeping track. That, and people saying I was paranoid and stuff like that.

Playing on the road is like being some up and coming boxer fighting the champ. You better beat him clearly and not leave it close toward the end.

And don't get me started on the NBA :)

by owl jolsen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 10:07pm

There is nothing wrong with criticizing a call you feel did'nt go your way, but that should be the end of it. If you go to the skins site you'll see one of their featured articles is on how Gibbs spent monday reveiwing bad calls and how he's sending film to the league. (or should I say just the ones that did'nt go his way) He should be reveiwing film on how Tampa does'nt run the ball on you all day and you let Simms pick you apart in the air. Reveiw how you ran all over the bucs yet you need 30 yds to get into feild goal range and you throw four incomplete passes.

by Stevie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 10:10pm

Charles and #36 Im with you. Refs are objective most of the time but with 60,000 screaming fans and some calls that are genuinely difficult to make how are they not going to give the benefit of the doubt to the home team? Come on

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 10:39pm

how are they not going to give the benefit of the doubt to the home team?

By doing their job. Why do you think they wouldn't? Are you going to claim the officials are afraid of the crowd? This is the 2005 NFL, not the 1950s NBA.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 11/15/2005 - 10:46pm

Coaches complaining about calls has reached the point of being ridiculous. Maybe if coaches spent more time coaching their players not to break rules instead of deluding themselves that their teams are perfect and the officials are always messing up then their teams would commit fewer fouls.

This isn't related to Gibbs, but seeing as it concerns a coach moaning about officiating, consider this report on Nick Saban:

Miami coach Nick Saban said he was still somewhat upset about a 49-yard, pass-interference penalty on cornerback Travis Daniels during Sunday's loss to New England. Saban said the official initially told him that Daniels held the arm of Patriots wide receiver Andre Davis. 'I said, 'Then it should have been defensive holding,' '' Saban said, referring to a call that would have resulted in a 5-yard penalty.

The guy doesn't even know the rules! Pass interference versus holding has to do with whether the ball has been thrown or not. If you "hold" a receiver after the ball has been thrown then it is pass interference not holding. You'd think a head coach in the NFL would know that, but I guess most coaches can't think clearly at all when it comes to officiating.

Last comment: I thought Allstott was clearly in, but maybe others have watched the replay more closely than I did.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 11/16/2005 - 3:59am

Re #32: Allow me to sum up my points. You feel like the overwhelming majority of the calls went against the Redskins. I feel like you pointed out 3 calls- one of which was right, one of which was wrong, and one of which was too close to tell definitively either way. I challenge you to tell me how that classifies as "the majority of the calls" going against Washington. Especially since, from what I've seen of Washington, they get away with a lot of uncalled offensive holding.

I'll mention again a Florida-FSU game where there were 5 fumbles, and the officials ruled that FSU recovered all 5 times, even though there was clear and indisputable evidence that UF had recovered at least 4, and pretty solid evidence that they'd recovered the fifth. And, might I add, it was an ACC officiating crew, and the head official was wearing an FSU National Championship ring. The officiating was actually so bad that ESPN.com, which usually refrains from criticising officials, actually published two different articles on the horrible officiating. That strikes me as a point where you can complain about officiating. Not 3 calls- 33% of which were right, 33% of which were wrong, and 33% of which were too close to call. If ESPN was posting in the game recap that there were numerous bad officiating calls that all went against Washington, then I'll start buying that Washington had an inordinate number of bad calls against them. Until that time, I remain skeptical.

And for the record, I apologize for not being clear, but the "quit whining" comment was directed at Joe Gibbs, not you. Because I know he's an avid reader of the discussion threads on Football Outsiders, you know?

by Nelphonious of Pennfielde (not verified) :: Wed, 11/16/2005 - 2:45pm

Hooray!Vermeil and Gruden may spark a creative trend in the league for 2 point conversion as a weapon,not a mathematical necessity.
Indeed Pittsburgh(Randle El +Bettis+Batch+Ward)Denver(Plummer and Van Pelt+Bailey)Jacksonville(Jones)San Diego(Tomlinson) come to mind.Historically It is 40% from the 2 yd line.
Surprisingly other strategic odds(onside kick recovery over 20%..and first possesion OT wins.less than 40% invite further creative exercise.

by Chill (not verified) :: Wed, 11/16/2005 - 6:34pm

Hey Redskins fans! I think that Gibbs needs to take a page out of Parcell's book of etiquette. After the 'Skins stole their Week 2 win from the Cowboys, Parcell's could have gone on like Gibbs and pointed out 7 blown calls that benefited Washington and killed the Cowboys. Like non-called holding calls on both of the touchdown throws to Moss. But Parcells didn't, so Gibbs needs to shut up. By the way, Gibbs betta be gettin' used to losing. 'Skins suck, almost as bad as Philly.

by Bob Palmer (not verified) :: Sat, 11/26/2005 - 11:55am

The standard is clear and irrefutible evidence for an overturn. The replay met that standard yet it was not overturned. If everyone on the planet knows what the call should be and it is not overturned than what is the point of replay? Anyone who argues that the ball could not be seen therefore an overturn should not be made must have a pretty bizare understanding of human anatomy. The endzone camera showed the elbow of the arm that held the ball to be down six inches from the goal line, while his back was facing down going head first. There is no possible explanation for this lack of reversal unless you delve in to the realm of conspiracy or physically/ mentally challenged officials. I'm not particularly interesed in all the other ways the Redskins should have won this game. I think the league owes fans an explanation for this call, it was terrible.