NFL Playoffs & Historically Bad Calls Take Two

During each postseason every football fan dreads a moment where the game is decided by the referees and not the players on the field. We think back to “The Tuck Rule”, Mike Renfro’s catch/non catch in the ’79 AFC Championship, or Bert Emanuel’s catch/non catch in the NFC Championship. Yet yesterday for the 1st time since Referee Jim Tunney made the call after Renfro’s catch had a nationally televised audience yelling in anguish at a moment instant replay could have corrected.

Sean Payton dispairs over one of the most egregious non calls in NFL history.

Football coaches and players at all levels will tell you “The eye in the sky doesn’t lie” meaning the truth is always caught on film. It’s there for teams to study film against an opponent or the camera can catch what has been missed by the naked eye of an out of place referee. On Sunday we were stricken with two occasions that marred both conference championship games.

Which raises some questions for the NFL:

  • Why can’t penalties or missed penalties like pass interference be reviewed??
  • Why can’t a team challenge a play during the last two minutes of a ball game when it’s the most important time of the contest??
  • Why does the ruling in under 2 minutes to go take place in a backroom at the NFL’s offices and not an official on the field in the arena??

Lets take a look at the 1st in the NFC Championship. With just 1:49 to go in a 20-20 tie at the 13 yard line, Drew Brees faced a 3rd and 10. Brees threw toward the near sideline to Tommylee Lewis who had run a wheel route out of the backfield when… and here it is in real time:

Coach Sean Payton screaming at the official withstanding, there were several penalties that could have and should have been called.

  • Pass Interference: Robey-Coleman never turned to locate the ball colliding with Lewis before the ball arrived.
  • Personal Foul: Blow to the head of a receiver reaching for the football.
  • Illegal Contact: As Robey-Coleman hit Lewis at the 6 yard line, 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. You’re only allowed to chuck a receiver 5 yards downfield or under.

The fact we’re talking the final minutes of a conference championship game on the line and a Super Bowl berth at stake, this is one of the worst outcomes in the history of the league.  The fact you had Fox analyst Mike Pereira, who is the former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL right there expressing there could have been two of the penalties I just highlighted lent to a national televised audience despair with the situation. Let alone the emotional release of the Super Dome crowd who was witnessing “the great train robbery.” With booing you could have heard across state lines in Mississippi.

Our minds as fans were just coming to grips with the fiasco in New Orleans and the NFC Championship when the AFC Title Tilt reached the 4th quarter. With 7:05 to go in the game Kansas City held the momentum and a 21-17 lead when Chris Jones was flagged for a “roughing the passer” penalty. It was such a bad call both Jim Nantz and Tony Romo were in the middle of professing it was a phantom call when former NFL official Gene Sterratore offered this commentary:

Andy Reid should have been allowed to challenge that personal foul call!!

Now we have to talk about what needs to be done in this situation. First where has Roger Goodell been in the midst of one of the worst scandals in the history of the NFL?? His silence is glaring during a week when the league’s integrity is being called into question. With a Super Bowl on the line, these calls to put what many feel to be the match-up the league office wanted to see makes this the equivalent of the Black Sox Scandal in baseball a century earlier. If the Los Angeles Rams were to win down in Atlanta next Sunday, the NFL could wind up with it’s first champion with claims against it’s legitimacy.

There are several precedents that should have taken place. Goodell should have stepped in and had the final 1:49 of that game replayed. However he didnt and we have to guard the integrity of the game and remove the league office from the involvement of any contest while it’s going on. The league office controlling the official instant replay calls with 2:00 or under has always been a sore spot of contention anyway.

#1. The official in charge of the game to make any and all decisions need to be in charge of the game. Not some nefarious figure in the NFL office. What difference does it make to change a call in the 1st quarter if you’re derailed by an untimely call at the most important juncture of the game??

#2. Open Instant Replay challenges to three (per half) to all coaches and allow challenges at any and all times of the game. This needs to be opened up to challenge penalties called on the field and any 15 yard foul or defensive penalty that carries the weight of an automatic first down whether called or not called.

#3. The NFL needs to move to assigning officiating crews who have worked together all year to oversee playoff games. Not an all star crew. This way these officials know how to work together and communicate verbal and non-verbal along with confidently conferring with each official before making a big call in an important juncture of a playoff game.

The purpose of instant replay as an officiating tool is to get the call right. Ironically the day before these events, The Chancellor heard from Jim Tunney “The Dean of NFL Referees” about the controversial call in the ’79 AFC Championship his crew made on Mike Renfro’s catch/no catch that gave berth to the first incarnation of instant replay in officiating:

Here is what Jim Tunney offered as an explanation: 

That scenario offered finality in knowing Tunney and his officials made the call on the field that day. As a historian I’ve never been able to speak on the Steelers as Super Bowl XIV champions and I doubt I would be able to do so if the Rams win it next Sunday.

However we need to see changes and the NFL needs to guard it’s integrity by letting the officials and an instant replay official on-site make every call concerning any contest. Blown calls need to be reversed even when it comes to a penalty being called or reversing a call where a flag had been thrown. Too much is at stake here.

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Nick Foles v. Carson Wentz – The Philadelphia Eagles Could Have a Problem

There comes a time when a team has to make a tough decision based upon an expected return on investment, ability to achieve goals, and prestige to the organization. Especially when it comes to selecting their franchise quarterback, what is more important – potential or demonstrated ability to achieve goals based upon experience??

As the final seconds ticked away in Sunday Night’s 16-15 Wildcard win in Soldier Field, it became apparent Nick Foles had saved the 2018 Eagles season. The magic carpet ride last year that concluded with a Super Bowl MVP and this uniform display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame seems to have been extended.

If the Eagles pull off another upset in the divisonal round against the Saints, Foles will have won his 5th straight post season game.

Now ask yourself a question: “What is the definition of a franchise quarterback?” He is a signal caller who can be counted on to lead his team to a championship and keeps his team in contention over an extended period of time. Preferably a 5-7 year window.

Yet when you think of Foles, he is thought of as a caretaker of the position until 1st round draft pick Carson Wentz returns from injury. By all accounts Foles was coming to the end of the line in Philly. He had been the dutiful soldier who stepped in and led the Eagles to a championship, then took his place behind Wentz again. He said all the right things but things will change with another berth in the NFC Championship Game.

How do you turn your back from a QB that leads you to multiple conference championship games?? I know Wentz was drafted in the 1st round of 2016 but there is no guarantee he has the moxie and cool to win NFL playoff games. Think back to another 1st round pick, Donovan McNabb, and the 3 straight NFC Chanpionship losses he had before breaking through in ’04. Would the Eagles have stayed with McNabb in those losses had they a Super Bowl winning QB to replace him??

Think back to 1992 when former Eagle OC Frank Reich quarterbacked the Bills to a 41-38 win in the greatest comeback in NFL history when they had been down 35-3 in an AFC Wildcard Game. He then engineered a 23-3 win in Pittsburgh the following week. Having lost 2 of the previous Super Bowls and HoF QB Jim Kelly healthy, Bills fans and local press were split 50/50 on whether they should stay with the “hot hand” of Reich going into the AFC Championship. After they won it, it was the 1st question Kelly was asked about by NBC and it followed him in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXVII.

Carson Wentz has yet to play in a playoff game. The closest he came was 2017’s 43-35 win over the Rams in the LA Coliseum when he blew out his knee. The Eagles did achieve homefield advantage with the win however Foles has eclipsed even that:

NFL records held by Foles:

  • Foles: 7 TD passes – 11/23/13 v. Oakland Raiders tied record held by Joe Kapp 1969 Vikings v Colts 9/28/69.  Also tied 4 others including Peyton Manning 2013 Broncos v Ravens
  • Foles: The only QB in NFL history to throw for 7 TDs and finish with a perfect rating of 158.3.
  • Set an NFL record with a touchdown to interception ratio of 13.5 with 27 TDs to 2 ints.
  • Tied the NFL record for most consecutive completions with 25 w/ Phillip Rivers in ’18 finale v Redskins.

Had Chip Kelly not sabotaged the Eagles in trading away DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Macklin he could have been doing this from 2013 on.

In the penultimate game this year against the Texans he inspired his team while throwing for a team record 471 yards to cement a playoff berth. This was delivered with their season on the line.

Did you know that both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles have now each played 40 games for the Eagles?? Guess who has the higher passer rating (93.2 -92.5)??

You also know that St Nick holds the Eagles records for highest passer rating (119.3/2013), the top two seasons for fewest interceptions and interception percentage…right??

Now keep in mind Carson Wentz won the Taylor Blitz Times Offensive MVP last season so this isn’t a knock against him. It’s just that Foles infuses juice into this team and he has rallied the offense where it sputtered some with Wentz coming back from injury. With Foles at only 29 years of age to Wentz’s 26, he has entered the realm of mature quarterback where the game has slowed down for him. In this day and age where you can’t hit the qb, he can play until he’s 40. He’s grounded and as he appeared in last year’s Super Bowl, the brightest of lights didn’t make him flinch. In fact he played better… just like these games down the stretch.

Foles threw for a team record 471 yards on the NFL’s 12th ranked team.

Eight weeks ago the Eagles suffered the worst loss for a champion in the 52 year history of the Super Bowl 48-7 down in New Orleans. Now they return to the scene of the crime in the divisional playoff round. If Nick rises to the occasion and pulls off this upset it may turn the tables and the team should keep Foles and trade Carson Wentz.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Denver for Von Miller and a #1pick if John Elway was serious about trading Von??

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Tennessee for Pro Bowl DT Jurrell Casey and Marcus Mariota to be the backup?? Team DT Fletcher Cox with Casey to form a tandem to rival Donald and Suh out in Los Angeles.

What about a trade of Carson Wentz to Jacksonville for LB Myles Jack and a #1pick?? Or get Tom Coughlin to throw in CB Jaylon Ramsey??

Think of the possibilites of what would be available trading across conference to teams desperate for a franchise quarterback??

Nick Foles could have this on the table with a win this week down in New Orleans. Keep in mind he lost a tough game 26-24 in the Superdome to Drew Brees in 2013. In that game he was 23 of 33 for 195 yards 2 TDs and no picks. If he handled the noise and pressure of facing Drew Brees in his 1st ever playoff game, will he be nervous 5 years later as a reigning Super Bowl MVP?? I don’t think so…

Nick Foles… your mission should you choose to accept it…

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