NFL officiating is a thankless job. If NFL fans and sports commentators do not mention the referees following the game, the officials did a good job. Otherwise, if NFL referees are discussed postgame, 99.9% of the time, it is because there were critical errors, questionable calls, or questionable non-calls.
NFL referees are people, and people make mistakes. Unfortunately, on Sunday, NFL officials made a lot of them. Let’s explore the wild mishaps from the zebras in Week 8.
The Re-Spot Heard Around the World
During the Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals game, well after the play, an official moved the ball back a half-yard, and the Cardinals were marked short. It was such an odd maneuver that social media decided to chime in.
— Mike McDaniel (@MikMcDaniel) October 29, 2023
Although everyone is quick to jump on the referee-blaming bandwagon, this one had a pretty clear reasoning. According to Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon, the league’s replay assistant from above made the call.
PFWA Pool Reporter and AZ Central’s Bob McManaman got a further explanation from NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson:
MORE: NFL Referee Salary — How Much Do NFL Refs Make?
“Yes, this was a replay assist from the booth at the stadium. With the replay assist rule, what that allows us to do is provide officials with objective information if we end up with clear and obvious video evidence. We waited a bit because we weren’t exactly sure where the officials were going to initially spot the ball after all the players cleared, and we could see it actually spotted on the big line.
Then the replay official told the officials that the ball was clearly short, and that’s why the umpire ended up moving the ball. And obviously, with it being short on a fourth down with the new rule this year, a failed fourth-down attempt is a booth review. But since we had already assisted, we knew it was short, that’s why we didn’t stop further to review it again.”
Dramatic in the moment, but ultimately the right call. Chalk one up for the good guys with this one.
New England Patriots’ Pass Interference
Last Sunday, Miami Dolphins fans were upset about the officiating in the Miami and Philadelphia game, where the Eagles didn’t have a penalty thrown on them all game. Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel commented on the situation in one of the most Mike McDaniel ways possible, with a quotable, self-teaching moment.
“I never attach any emotion to it because it already happened,” McDaniel replied. “Like, ‘Hey man, our bad,’ or, ‘Yeah, we were right.’ Like, OK. You’re just trying to be as well-versed as possible in the rules of engagement, and I have a hard time even factoring officiating into any sort of emotion that I have because you control what you can control.
“So I might as well get mad at thunder.”
This week, the Dolphins themselves may have benefited from a questionable pass interference call in the end zone.
Admittedly, there was some contact between New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson and Dolphins’ receiver Tyreek Hill, but was it really enough to warrant an important, early-game pass interference penalty?
This play by J.C. Jackson was called for pass interference pic.twitter.com/K8LvTcogH5
— Ben Brown 🌻 (@BenBrownPL) October 29, 2023
Questionable Roughing the Passer and Offsides in Pittsburgh
The Jacksonville Jaguars benefited from several penalties throughout their 20-10 road victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The officiating was so questionable that Steelers’ receiver Diontae Johnson spoke about how bad the referees were to the media, a big no-no if you want to avoid hearing from Roger Goodell and paying a league-mandated fine.
One call in particular that drew the ire of Pittsburgh coaches and fans alike was the roughing-the-passer call, where the Steelers’ defender took Trevor Lawrence down with a perfect form tackle.
THIS WAS NOT CALLED ROUGHING THE PASSER.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME REFS???#Steelers
— PickensBurgh (Tino) (@PickensBurgh) October 29, 2023
The referees also called a penalty on the Steelers for lining up offsides where, in fact, it was the Jacksonville Jaguars lined up offsides. Johnson wasn’t the only player calling out the referee’s performance. Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell took to social media with photographic evidence showing the Jaguars were offsides.
𝗧𝗥𝗘𝗡𝗗𝗜𝗡𝗚: #Steelers Kicker Chris Boswell shared a photo on his story calling out the refs…
Steelers had a… pic.twitter.com/RvVmm4cQ2I
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) October 30, 2023
Former vice president of officiating of the NFL and current rules analyst at FOX Sports Mike Pereira clarified that the officials botched the offsides penalty, saying, “In Pittsburgh, offside on the offensive guard? Officials are told to call that if a lineman has his head in the neutral zone on the short yardage push plays, not on field goal attempts”.
Head coach Mike Tomlin did not go as far as Johnson in his criticism of the penalty. However, during his postgame press conference, he did share his surprise.
“I didn’t get a lot of dialogue,” Tomlin said when asked whether there was an explanation given from the officials. “I hadn’t seen that called in 17 years of standing on the sidelines. Offsides, lined up offsides on a guard, on a field goal protection — it didn’t matter what they said. I’ve never seen that.”
From the current NFL standings to team depth charts to coverage of every game in the 18-week NFL schedule, we have all the news from around the league to keep you up to speed!