NFC West: Leavy Apology 08072010

Referee Bill Leavy's surprise confession over officiating errors in the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl defeat four years ago raised questions. Let's search for some answers.
  • What calls did Leavy admit missing? Leavy said he "kicked two calls in the fourth quarter" of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 21-10 victory. There were only two penalties in the quarter. One was a holding call against Seahawks tackle Sean Locklear, wiping out a gain to the 1-yard line. The other was a low block called against Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The latter call was clearly made in error. Current and former associates of Leavy declined to speak for attribution, but they said the call against Hasselbeck always bothered Leavy. However, that call didn't affect the game significantly because it came after Hasselbeck threw an interception and Pittsburgh was in command. Leavy's associates said they thought the call against Locklear was correct and they couldn't understand why Leavy would make such an admission.
  • Why was Leavy in Seattle? Leavy never worked another Seahawks game while Mike Holmgren was the team's head coach. The league assigned him to the Seahawks' Week 2 game at San Francisco last season, without incident. Leavy was familiar with coaches on the Seahawks' new staff, however. He had worked their training camp practices elsewhere previously. That could have made the connection more natural at this time. The league did assign him to Seattle.
  • Did the league know in advance Leavy was going to make these statements? No. League spokesman Greg Aiello had this to say via email when contacted Saturday: "Bill's personal comments speak for themselves and we see no reason to add to them."
  • What was the Seahawks' reaction to Leavy's admission? Few players from the 2005 team remain on the roster, but Hasselbeck was gracious when reporters asked him about the admission Saturday. "I think all the officials that we have in the NFL are stand-up guys and Bill Leavy is no different," Hasselbeck said, adding that he spoke with Leavy in Week 2 last season. "It’s not a perfect science and there’s a lot of human involvement there and I’ve played some games that I remember because I feel like I did a good job and then I feel some other games where I have some regrets. That goes for any sport, any player, I’m sure coaching is no different, in that same way I’m sure officiating is the same thing."
  • Why confess at all? This admission seemed to serve Leavy's conscience more than anything. The league certainly doesn't want to revive a 4-year-old discussion on officiating errors. Even the Seahawks had moved on. Leavy's associates described him as very conscientious and as an official with a strong performance record overall, but they said they knew the Super Bowl bothered him.

Officials take all sorts of abuse from fans and criticism from all angles, but rarely do they open up the way Leavy has done in this case. The only complaint here is that he didn't do so earlier, and he wasn't more specific.
The Seattle Seahawks and their fans weren't the only ones agonizing over officiating in the team's Super Bowl XL defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2005 season.

The referee, Bill Leavy, also felt horrible about it. Leavy, part of the officiating crew monitoring Seahawks practices at training camp this week, told reporters the game "left me with a lot of sleepless nights" and that "I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better."

Where's Mike Holmgren when you need him?

Leavy admitted blowing two calls in the fourth quarter. One call would have presumably been the disputed holding penalty against tackle Sean Locklear after Seattle advanced to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line. The other presumably would have been the call against Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for an illegal block.

There were other potentially dubious calls that hurt Seattle in that game, from a penalty against receiver Darrell Jackson for pass interference to the ruling that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scored a touchdown shortly before halftime.

Leavy made his apology before briefing reporters on rules changes for the 2010 season. NFL officials provide such briefings every year in every NFL camp.

Leavy deserves credit for owning up to his mistakes, but why wait more than four years? As tough as it must have been for Leavy to fess up, it would have been much tougher -- and far more meaningful to the Seahawks -- if Holmgren were still head coach, Tim Ruskell were team president and more than eight current players had ties to that 2005 team.

Perhaps Leavy plans to reach out to them separately.

Too many questions remain unanswered. I plan to follow up when dropping by Seahawks practice Sunday.