Monday, November 7, 2011
On the 49ers' beefs with officiating Sunday
By Mike Sando
Jim Harbaugh spent quite a bit of time Sunday berating officials over a couple contested calls.
This was not the first time, and the scene did not sit well with the NFL's former officiating vice president.
Jim Harbaugh would work even greater wonders with the New York Giants, K.C. Joyner contends.
"After watching this game," Mike Pereira wrote in his column for Fox, "here's some advice for young Mr. Harbaugh: We're only halfway through the season -- take some deep breaths and enjoy the ride."
Harbaugh should take that approach provided officials get key calls correct and explain their reasoning succinctly.
The disputed penalty against 49ers tight end Justin Peelle for a false start on fourth-and-1 produced confusion. The key issue was whether Peelle shifted abruptly enough to simulate a snap, which could have drawn the Washington Redskins offsides. The rules are clear in saying it doesn't matter whether the defense actually jumps. Neither does it matter whether the offensive player is moving toward the line of scrimmage when he shifts.
"Any quick abrupt movement by a single offensive player, or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap, is a false start," the 2011 rulebook states.
I thought Peelle moved suddenly enough to draw a penalty. The fact that Peelle did not move toward the line of scrimmage made this call tougher to make, but at the very least, Peelle could have moved backward less suddenly. The 49ers obviously had incentive to draw the Redskins offside in this situation. They needed to make sure their presnap movements fell within the rules. Otherwise, they risked incurring a costly penalty from referee Gene Steratore and crew.
"It was fourth-and-1 and we have seen teams make sudden shifts, just trying to draw the defense offside," Pereira wrote. "We call this a 'no play shift.' And you penalize the shifting team. A shift of two or more players is legal as long as it is smooth and continuous. That was not the case here. That shift was solely done to draw a foul and the officials were alert to this action. That has been on a training tape to the officials before this game, and in my opinion, the crew got this right."
Pereira did not address the sequence when officials flagged the 49ers for delay of game after allegedly failing to notice two players attempting to report as eligible receivers, then allegedly failing to notice Harbaugh attempting to call timeout.
The 49ers' creative use of personnel and formations puts pressure on officials to keep up. I suspect they could have done a better job on that front in handling this second situation.