Monday Musings: The NFL Has An Officiating Problem


Evening, folks.

The Super Bowl is set: the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles will face off in Super Bowl LVII after toppling the Bengals and 49ers, respectively.

But, boy, it was not without some controversy.

NFL Officiating Is Becoming A Serious Problem

You know, someone I used to follow thumbed out a tweet about the NFL being scripted and fixed.  He fired that off right after the Chiefs beat the Texans in overtime.  I chided him and derided anyone else who asserted the same seemingly-silly argument.  Surely this many-multi-billion-dollar league would be above scripting games and determining outcomes, with so many owners/teams/etc invested in the outcomes.

And, to be clear, I still think that.  But MAN, Sunday evening in Kansas City gave the tin foil hatters some fodder, and I can’t dispute that it looks quite bad.

The Bengals were flagged 9 times for 71 yards, while the Chiefs drew 4 for 55.  But it was a non-penalty that was the talk of the game.  Referee Ron Torbert’s crew allegedly identified a clock issue as the Chiefs began a third and 9 play, and it appeared an official from the back of the play ran forward right as the play was about to begin.  However, no one heard a whistle – either over the crowd noise or because it wasn’t actually blown, who knows – and the play took place, with the Chiefs failing to convert and sending their punt team out.

Well, after a huddle and some discussion, Torbert sent the Chiefs punt team off the field and called the KC offense back on the field, effectively giving them a do over even though they failed to convert with no knowledge of any attempt to stop the play.  It was in effect an actual do over, and something that should never, ever happen in an NFL game, let alone in a conference championship that is tied in the fourth quarter.

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And on that re-done play, Tolbert’s crew had the gall to call defensive holding on Eli Apple for a Chiefs first down.  Cincinnati should have been given some major leeway there, and calling a penalty in that spot is a dreadful look.  Fortunately for Torbert, the Chiefs punted shortly thereafter, but the negative impact had already been made.

Lastly, after the Bengals punted in the final two minutes, Kansas City returned a punt to around midfield while benefiting from a clear missed block in the back call on the return.  The coup de gras was when Joseph Ossai hit Patrick Mahomes out of bounds with 8 seconds remaining and the Chiefs out of timeouts, which pushed a 60-yarder to a much more makeable 45 yard kick.  Harrison Butker knocked it through, and the Chiefs were on their way to Super Bowl LVII.  The penalty was clear and correctly called, but the Chiefs appeared to get away with a hold during the play that would have offset the penalty and likely sent the game into overtime.

It was a series of – for the Bengals – unfortunate events from a crew who, honestly, has absolutely no business officiating a playoff game in the near future.  And it was a terrible look that helped spoil what was otherwise a great game.

Bucs Miss Out On A Candidate For Offensive Coordinator

Monday afternoon, a name that was associated with the Bucs’ vacant offensive coordinator position came off the board.  Former Dallas OC Kellen Moore was announced as the new Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator.  The Bucs reportedly had significant interest in Moore, who was seemingly scapegoated by Dallas for the Cowboys’ failure to get out of the divisional round.  Now, Moore will be working with one of the best young QBs in the NFL in Justin Herbert while the Bucs’ search for their next play caller continues.

Experience Calling Plays Should Be A Key In Finding A New Offensive Coordinator

There are plenty of young and/or otherwise intriguing candidates for the position out there that the Bucs could roll the dice on.  Cincinnati’s QB coach Dan Pritcher interviewed with the Bucs.  He’s done yeoman’s work with Joe Burrow, but the question remains – what would he be like calling plays?  Could he be the next bright star in the league?  Or would his inexperience lead to early growing pains?

To be frank, Todd Bowles cannot afford to hire someone who may need time to develop into the position.  2022 was a big step backwards, and while Bowles’ seat may not yet be hot, it’s bound to be at least warm.

Which leads to a candidate that has both experience calling plays and calling them for this organization: Todd Monken. Monken called plays for the Bucs from 2016-2018 and then in Cleveland in 2019.  The Bucs’ offenses improved incrementally during that span from 18th in points to 16th and then to 12th.  The passing attempts increased by season as well, with the team totaling 625 passing attempts in 2018, 4th most in the league (while 22nd in rushing attempts (389)). So for those looking for an OC with experience and less predictable/more aggressive, this may not be no-risk-it/no-biscuit, but it’s one that has functioned better than 2022’s version.

Of course, a big question remains: who’s going to sling the pigskin for a new Tampa Bay OC in 2023?  And will that unknown quantity make the Bucs a tougher job for a candidate to accept?

We’ll find out soon enough.

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