Andrew Hirschbein

February 12th, Super Bowl LVII, under two minutes to go in the game, and the score is tied at 35.  Patrick Mahomes throws a ball targeted at JuJu Smith-Schuster towards the front pylon. No one’s home, but hold up– there’s a flag on the field!  Holding- defense- number 24: five yard penalty and automatic first down.

That’s the now infamous ruling that referee Carl Cheffers made when Philadelphia Eagles cornerback, James Bradberry, sort of grabbed Kansas City Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. 

Even color commentator Greg Olsen didn’t think the grab was worthy of throwing the flag. Live on air “I think you let them play, finish this thing out, I don’t love the call.” As a former NFL tight end, Greg Olsen knows what he’s talking about, especially since in this writer’s opinion, he’d been biased against the Eagles all game and very clearly had money on the Chiefs (well, not really, but there was clearly bias towards the Chiefs.) 

That’s another problem with football, actually.  The league is getting close with sports books and it clearly has an influence on people. For example, now Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who was an Atlanta Falcon at the time, was suspended this season due to betting on a game. If an official did this and bet on a game they were officiating, they’d clearly call the game in one team’s favor. This has actually happened in the NBA when Tim Donaghy was caught betting on games and calling them in his favor.

Do you think the Super Bowl holding call was warranted?

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Aside from the sports books, another issue with the NFL’s officiating is the referee’s boss, the league commissioner, Roger Godell. He thinks the league officiating is better than ever. This braindead take is ridiculous according to everyone who has a brain cell and a little bit of football knowledge. This past year, everyone has been complaining about the abundance of unnecessary ‘roughing the passer’ calls for things like finishing hits on a quarterback and literally just tackling them.

For example, in week five’s Atlanta Falcons versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, Tom Brady led a game winning drive for the Bucs with help from the referees because of a roughing the passer call on Atlanta edge rusher Grady Jarrett for tackling Tom Brady, with the ball in his hands, mind you. But, because the tackle happened to include Jarrett tackling Brady, with Brady going over his leg, it was called roughing the passer. 

The roughing the passer problem “went away” during the postseason because Roger Godell told officials not to call it as frequently. Which, by the way, contradicts his prior assertions that there isn’t a problem with the referees. 

And to wrap it all up? My (not totally serious) theory is that the referee union pays off Roger Godell in exchange for not firing them despite their failures as referees.