NFL’s “No-Call” Heard ‘Round the World

Like most sports fan, I watched the NFC Championship game last Sunday with modest interest.  I’m neither a fan of the New Orleans Saints nor the Los Angeles Rams. (I’m a long-suffering Miami Dolphins fan but that comes into play a bit later.) The big story was the “no-call’ of a blatant defensive pass interference penalty near the end of the game.  If you haven’t seen it, Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis was fouled by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman as a pass arrived from future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. For any football fan, it was almost a perfect example of defensive pass interference: A receiver tries to catch a ball but a defensive player grabs, pushes or otherwise interferes so the receiver doesn’t get a fair chance to catch it. In this case, Robey-Coleman annihilated Lewis well before he had a chance to attempt a catch.In most cases like this, a football official throws a penalty flag.  But not last Sunday.

Saints fan are outraged, and football fans everywhere are stunned as the no-call changed the outcome of the game and therefore which team would be in the Super Bowl. It’s one of those plays that will be remembered for many years to come.

In response, the NFL has officially said, well, nothing. The no response to the no-call was first brought up to me by my son Jack. As an avid sports fan who is also 16, he asked why the NFL hadn’t publicly responded — he also thinks all the officials should be fired. I think that’s a harsh punishment, but I’m also surprised that we haven’t heard anything from the NFL or its commissioner, Roger Goodell. What’s the official position of the NFL on this matter? At the time of this writing two days later, we don’t know. We can make a bunch of assumptions, like that the NFL probably has policies and procedures to look back on such situations and address them so that they don’t happen again. Yet when something this big happens, shouldn’t we hear from the top executive?

As a PR person, i would advise the NFL to treat this like any other blown call – of which there are many each season. However, it’s not clear if they are even doing that. Ironically, what we are getting from the NFL for the infamous no-call is more of the same: inaction.

Now we can get into a fun, bar-stool conversation about referees, judgment calls, instant replays and reverse camera angles, but my point is that if your organization makes a mistake in front of a national audience, do you own it, or do you soft-pedal it? In today’s digital world with instant replay, instant feedback on social media and a desire for instant gratification by the football world, we should get something more instant from the NFL.

I told my son that sometime next week during advance coverage of the Super Bowl, Goodell will be asked about the no-call and will probably give a standard, PR-person-drafted message point answer. It will be incredibly unsatisfying for Saints fans and probably create more questions than answers for sports fans in general.

For my son, it likely won’t be enough either. He said he’s not interested in watching the Super Bowl.  “You can’t even root against Tom Brady, because the Rams don’t deserve to be there,” Jack quipped.  (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

For Dolphins fans like me, we must watch Brady and his superior team in yet another Super Bowl.  Ugh.  But at least this year, we have the Miami Miracle.

What do you think of the NFL’s no response to the “No-Call” Heard ‘Round the World?

–John

Note: WordPress has mysteriously activated my moderation settings. I’m approving all comments as quickly as I can.

Comments

  1. Missed and wrong pass interference calls, both defensive and offensive, probably decide more game outcomes than any other mistaken calls in football. I’d suggest the NFL adopt a rule that allows each team one pass interference call or non-call challenge per game.

  2. Great Article I am a life time Saints fan , although haven’t lived there in almost 40 years , my roots are there. Very disappointed to see the outcome considering the close end score , it really did make the game difference.I am not an expert on rules or keep up full time with the game so my following question will probably sound silly but out of curiosity, Ive seen in other games they do playback reviews when a call or play is in question , i though i’ve heard each team gets a couple of dispute for review chances? , is this in all games for all disputed calls or is there other guidelines for this?.

  3. Bad calls happen all the time, in every sport, at every level, even in high profile games with the best referees around. The major leagues have tried to address it with technology, challenges and video assists, yet referees remain just ordinary, one-leg-at-a-time humans. Whatever you think Roger Goodell should say, whatever mea culpa you think he should make, it will be read as the the Rams don’t belong in the Super Bowl. And that would just make matters worse.

    When bad calls change the outcome for the games my sons’ teams play, I tell them they should have scored more or prevented the other team from keeping the score so close. But then again, they’re only human.

    • I tend to agree with you under most circumstances. Games are not typically won/lost on one play. In my opinion, the silence from the NFL on this mistake is itself a mistake.

  4. Tim Durkin says:

    The no-call didn’t cost the Saints a game. It cost them a season. It cost each player at least $100,000 for playing in the Super Bowl, and more if they won. It cost their fans. It cost some players their only or last chance at playing in the game they spend their entire careers trying to get into. The cost of that mistake, being that not one but two referees were looking at it is egregious. Not only has it killed a great deal of interest in watch NFL games but it must be asked in this age of wagering. Was the fix in?

  5. Joe Spiriti says:

    Yes.. that NON call was HORRIBLE! HOWEVER! It is not as Bad as the real “HIT” heard round the world! 2001 Jets – Patriots… Bledsoe knocked out and in return…. 17 years of Tom Brady!… IMAGINE if that play NEVER took place!

    http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-films-presents/09000d5d8227f09b/Bledsoe-to-Brady-The-hit-that-changed-history

    • Thanks for your comment. I re-watched it and it is amazing that Bledsoe didn’t just go out of bounds. Also, he was being tackled low when he got hit high. Changed things but I think Brady eventually rises not matte what.