NFL official Bill Leavy strikes again

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
11:30
AM ET
SAN DIEGO -- Controversy seems to follow NFL official Bill Leavy.

The latest incident occurred Sunday in San Diego’s AFC West contest against Kansas City. With the Chargers needing a win to advance to the postseason and the score tied at 24-all, Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal that would have ended the Chargers' season.

However, replays showed the Chargers had seven players lined up to the right side of the defensive formation, a clear violation of a new rule implemented by the league this season. The rule states that the defense can have only six players on one side of the formation on field goal and extra point attempts. The rule was put in place by the league to help further protect players in vulnerable positions susceptible to injury.

Leavy's crew failed to call a penalty for illegal formation, which would have resulted in a 5-yard penalty and another opportunity for Succop to win the game with a 36-yard field goal attempt.

The Chargers eventually won the game in overtime 27-24, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Leavy’s crew has made clear mistakes that have affected games at least twice that we know of this season.

The non-call by Leavy’s crew helped keep the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs. A San Diego loss would have created a five-way tie at 8-8, and the Steelers would have won the tiebreaker, advancing to the postseason with the last AFC wild-card berth.

Coincidentally, Leavy’s crew also oversaw Super Bowl XL, in which Pittsburgh appeared to benefit from a couple of questionable calls to defeat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. It was the last time his crew worked a Super Bowl.

Leavy, an official since 1995, later offered a mea culpa during a training session with reporters three years ago in Seattle. I was there for his surreal apology, which you can check out here. You have to give Leavy credit for owning up to his mistakes.

The Chargers are the latest team to benefit from a mistake by Leavy’s crew. San Diego should in no way apologize for the victory. Wins are hard to come by in the NFL, and victories that vault you into the postseason even more so.

What needs to change is the encyclopedia-thick rulebook that governs the game. Even officials with decades of experience can't intimately know the minutiae of the cumbersome NFL rulebook to effectively govern at the speed NFL players play the game.

It creates embarrassing moments where the league is once again apologizing for an official's mistake that may have been avoided if the rulebook was streamlined.

Eric D. Williams

ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter

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