Weak NFL response suggests more of same
September, 25, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
The NFL repeatedly has played us for fools over the past two months. Did you expect that to change with Tuesday's response to the final play of the Green Bay Packers' 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks?
Instead of fully owning up to an inexcusable series of events, the league admitted one mistake and took an end-around to avoid the other. Its response comes nowhere close to suggesting the league has been chastened, humbled or deeply concerned by a game decided on two bad calls by substandard officials. Instead, it reads more like an explanation for any other run-of-the-mill controversy we've seen over the years.
We posted the entire statement in the previous post. It notes that Seahawks receiver Golden Tate "can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground" while Russell Wilson's Hail Mary pass was in the air. The NFL acknowledged this "should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game." Conveniently, however, it "was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay."
OK, that's a fair admission. But on the more-discussed issue of whether Tate or Packers safety M.D. Jennings had earned possession of the ball, the NFL offered a blatantly passive response that never addressed the question. Instead, the NFL merely stated: "When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown."
But were the officials correct in determining there was, in fact, simultaneous possession of the ball? As we noted earlier, one official near the play ruled a touchdown and the other touchback. The NFL weakly avoided that issue entirely. Instead, it merely supported the decision to uphold the original call via replay.
Overturning a call on replay requires "irrefutable" evidence of a mistake. I guess there is enough gray area in the video to fall somewhere short of that standard. However, the overwhelming sense from the Packers and most other observers is that Jennings caught the ball, had possession when his feet hit the ground. Tate fought for the ball, but did he have simultaneous possession? That's highly debatable, at best, and totally unaddressed by a league that has done nothing Tuesday to quell overwhelming scrutiny about the integrity of its officiating.
The NFL affirmed the game's result is final. I didn't expect commissioner Roger Goodell to invoke his authority to overturn it based on the "Extraordinarily Unfair Acts" clause of the rule book, and I suppose this muted response shouldn't be that surprising, either. I guess there's no turning back when your strategy is to fool people into accepting that a charade is somehow legitimate.