NFC West: Bob McGrath

Pereira: NFL should have reviewed fumble

February, 5, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Two changes NFL officiating director Mike Pereira says he would have made in officiating for Super Bowl XLIII:

  • Pereira wishes replay official Bob McGrath had challenged referee Terry McAulay's fumble ruling in the final seconds. The play was definitely a fumble by Kurt Warner, Pereira said, but the situation and stakes called for a formal review.
  • Pereira said officials would have penalized Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes for excessive celebration had they seen him use the football as a prop following the winning touchdown reception. Line judge Mark Perlman had already turned away to prepare for the extra point.

My thoughts: Of course the Warner fumble should have been reviewed. That seemed obvious at the time. As Pereira said on NFL Network:

"Looking back at it, it was close enough, at that big of a play at the end of a game, I would have sent it down. ... You learn and you go back from this saying the next time it happens at this point of the game, this big of a play, let's go ahead and get it shut down."

I'm not sure why the replay official wouldn't have had the same thought at that moment in the game. This wasn't a complicated decision. Big game, huge play, final seconds, close call, go ahead and take a look.

On the Holmes play, he made an outstanding catch. The celebration was very short. Yes, he violated rules. Yes, he should have been smarter in that situation. But if officials had flagged him and the Cardinals had won the game, we would be asking ourselves whether an already controversial rule should decide a Super Bowl. The NFL would be hearing renewed charges about being the "No Fun League" and we would be focusing more on officiating than the great plays made on the field.

As things stand now, I think most of us can agree that great players decided a great game, even if the officiating wasn't as good as desired.

Posted by's Mike Sando

The mailbag overfloweth. I'm plowing through them and will post responses periodically. Some of my favorites have to do with the mistaken idea that the NFL did review the Cardinals' final offensive play in Super Bowl XLIII.

Wlf359 from Harrisburg, Pa., writes: So, when are you going to revise/update your blog that the Warner fumble was not reviewed by the booth? Either call NFL head of officiating Perreira a liar or make the change. I presume you are interested in being accurate.

Mike Sando: There will be no revision because I was accurate. Let me explain. The replay official looked at it and decided not to challenge, so there was no challenge and no official review of the play. A challenge takes place when the replay official directs the referee to review the play. The referee never reviewed the play. I wrote that the league should have let the referee look at the play. The referee was unable to do so. We can confirm this by consulting the official gamebook, which shows no challenge and no review.

If the league wants to have Bob McGrath and other replay officials making those decisions with Super Bowls potentially on the line, the rest of us can question the wisdom. It's a stretch to me when these replay officials challenge ridiculously subjective things such as the spot of the ball -- ask the Colts and Seahawks about such plays in recent seasons -- only to take a hands-off approach on a fumble that might have been an attempted pass.

And then we have some of these replay officials challenging a dozen calls in a season while some others challenge one or two. A little more consistency would go a long way toward promoting confidence and credibility in NFL officiating.

Jcapozzoli from Pittsburgh writes: For an informed "blogger", you're not that bright. The play was reviewed in the booth and determined not to be a fumble by the head of officiating, thus, they felt there was no need to buzz down to the officials for a review. I thought only Seahawks fans, such as yourself, were whiney, wimpy sore losers. Apparently it's the whole NFC West that wears women's underwear.

Mike Sando: I've already addressed this one, but I liked your mailbag note so much, I could not resist running it. Thanks for the feedback.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Mike Sando

Replay Official
2008 Games Worked
Booth- initiated Challenges
Ken Baker
Al Hynes
Bob Mantooth
Al Jury 15
Howard Slavin
Dick Creed
Dale Hamer
Larry Nemmers
Earnie Frantz 16
Lloyd McPeters
Jim Lapetina
Jim Blackwood
Bobby Skelton
Bill Spyksma 15
Bob McGrath
Tommy Moore
Bob Boylston
Mark Burns

The NFL officiating stat
s I track suggest the replay official assigned to Super Bowl XLIII was unlikely to challenge referee Terry McAulay's fumble ruling in the final seconds.

Bob McGrath initiated two challenges in the 15 games he worked during the regular season. Only two full-time replay assistants initiated fewer challenges during the regular season.

The NFL has said McAulay's ruling was correct as called. The league said Kurt Warner fumbled and the Steelers recovered. The league said Warner did not throw incomplete on the play. I do not necessarily disagree, but a review seemed appropriate under the circumstances.

As Warner said after the game:

"I was really surprised on that one because I thought definitely I was moving my arm forward to throw the ball. I thought I had almost gotten the ball off. Yeah, it does surprise you that in that type of situation, five seconds to go to decide the Super Bowl, you would think there would be a review."

This was an all-star officiating crew. McGrath worked with referee Al Riveron during the regular season, except for Week 2, when Riveron filled in for referee Mike Carey on the Titans-Bengals game. Mark Burns subbed as replay official that day.

The information in the chart is according to my records. In many cases this season, NFL stat crews mistakenly listed video observers as replay officials in the official gamebooks. The league corrected these mistakes during and after the season. My stats reflected the corrected information.

I've always found it curious that some replay officials challenged rulings far more frequently than others. Some might have been paired with referees who have made closer calls during the final two minutes of halves. But I would expect the data to even out over the course of a 256-game regular season. That has not happened.

Posted by's Mike Sando

SB43 official
From crew of referee ...
Terry McAulay
Roy Ellison
Al Riveron
Head Linesman
Derick Bowers
John Parry
Line judge
Mark Perlman
Bill Leavy
Field judge
Greg Gautreaux
Gene Steratore
Side judge
Michael Banks
Back judge
Keith Ferguson
Replay assistant
Bob McGrath

TAMPA, Fla. -- We can more fully analyze officiating for Super Bowl XLIII now that the NFL has announced which officials will comprise referee Terry McAulay's crew Sunday.

The seven on-field officials and replay assistant Bob McGrath come from five crews. That leaves 12 crews unrepresented.

McAulay, first-year referee Al Riveron and veteran referee Bill Leavy each placed two of their crew members in Super Bowl XLIII.

From the NFL: McAulay, who is concluding his 11th season as an NFL game official, served as the referee in Super Bowl XXXIX. The Louisiana State alum has officiated in nine playoff games -- one Super Bowl, five NFL championship games, two divisional playoffs and one wild-card game.

Under the NFL officiating program's evaluation system, the highest-rated officials at each position with the appropriate experience earn the right to work the Super Bowl. Super Bowl officials must have five years of NFL experience and previous playoff assignments.

This crew should have good chemistry. McAulay and side judge Michael Banks have worked together for years. Field judge Greg Gautreaux worked with McAulay for years until joining referee Gene Steratore's crew this season. Head linesman Derick Bowers and back judge Keith Ferguson worked on referee Bill Vinovich's crew before Vinovich retired.

We provided information on McAulay upon learning of his Super Bowl assignment last week. As for McGrath, the replay official, he challenged two calls during the final 2 minutes of halves during the regular season. The league average was 4.8, with four of the 17 replay officials initiating nearly half of booth challenges (41 of 86).

McAulay's crew officiated the AFC divisional playoff game between the Titans and Ravens. The game featured a controversial non-call by the back judge after Baltimore failed to snap the ball before the play clock expired on a critical third-down play. Leavy's crew will supply the back judge for Super Bowl XLIII.

Perlman, the line judge, is the only Super Bowl XLIII official to work the Steelers' most recent Super Bowl appearance, after the 2005 season. To my knowledge, Perlman was not directly involved in the controversial calls associated with that game.