Before we dive into this, allow me to make the following disclaimer - The Eagles played an absolutely terrible football game last Sunday against the Redskins, and in no way am I trying to indicate that the officiating crew led by Alberto Riveron is the reason they lost. I'd also like to acknowledge that being a referee is not an easy job. I used to referee basketball games (10-12 year olds), and there were times I wanted to walk up into the crowd and choke the life out of that one annoying parent that continuously yelled "3 seconds! 3 seconds! He's camping out in there!" I also realize that these are human beings (with kids, and families, and whatever else), that are going to make mistakes.
Having said all that, the Redskins-Eagles game was one of the most poorly officiated NFL games I've ever witnessed, and I would have still produced this piece had the Eagles won. We're going to review the tape of what I've determined are a whopping FIVE major errors by Riveron's crew (3 by Riveron himself), which were as follows, in chronological order:
1) Multiple missed blatant blocks in the back on the long punt return by Brandon Banks in the first quarter.
2) A block in the back by Santana Moss, that was initially called (correctly), then picked up for an unknown reason.
3) The delay of game debacle at the end of the first half, which was an absolute disgrace of officiating (Riveron himself).
4) A ridiculous roughing the passer call on Ernie Sims. (Riveron himself)
5) A non-call for intentional grounding on Donovan McNabb, where the receiver in question wasn't even within 15 yards of where the pass landed. (Riveron himself)
Check out film of the missed calls after the jump:
1 - Missed blocks in the back on Brandon Banks' punt return - Of the five plays I listed above, this first one is the least egregious of the group - They get much worse. Complaining about not getting a block in the back call on a return is like complaining that your DE was being held while trying to get to the QB. What I mean by that is you can pretty much find some sort of hold on almost any pass play, just as you can find sort form of a block in the block on most returns. However, I count 3 clear-as-day blocks in the back on this punt return by Brandon Banks. I remembered seeing a bunch of them live, and as Brandon Banks was running down the sideline I actually said calmly, "No worries, it's coming back." But it never did. How many do you see?
2 - Santana Moss' block in the back - This one is just comical because it was such a horrible no-call on so many different levels. First, Moss blocks Joselio Hanson in the back. Then Moss grabs Hanson's jersey and pulls Hanson back toward him. And for good measure, Moss finishes Hanson off with one last obvious block in the back, which sends Hanson to the ground. But what I really loved about this one was that one of the officials flagged it, meaning that another official had to have intervened with conviction that it was a clean block. Also, watch Santana Moss' reaction when he sees the flag - He knows he's guilty. Unreal:
3 - OK, now the delay of game debacle - Andy Reid's not-so-eloquent quote after the game:
"I had all of the time (during the official replay review) to go over exactly what we wanted done, and then the position of the ball wasn't good. I can't question the officials or anybody else, and I'm not going to do that. I just know that where (the ball) originally was and where it ended up being were two different spots. Again, that's my responsibility. I'm not here to complain about the officials or anybody else. I goofed."
What he meant when he said "the position of the ball wasn't good" was that the ball was initially spotted inches from the goaline. After the review, it was moved back closer to the 1. However, here was Riveron's explanation after the booth challenge:
If you're going to move the ball AT ALL, then the explanation absolutely SHOULD NOT BE "The play stands." This was a booth review, not a challenge by the Eagles, and therefore, if there is any change whatsoever, it's Riveron's job to explain that the ball was being moved back closer to the 1 yard line. He didn't.
To compound that mistake, Riveron's crew (at least from what I can tell by re-watching this), gave little indication that the play on the field was resuming after the Eagles' timeout. When the officials restart the clock, the hand motion is accompanied by a whistle. The whistle would have been blown at some point when the camera was on Aikman and Buck in the booth. I listened for a whistle several times, and heard nothing. There was no crowd noise, since there had been no action on the field because of the insanely long review - Seems that it should have been easily heard if they blew the whistle. (To get a better idea of what I mean by that, in the next video, note how crisp, clear, and audible the whistle is just before the ensuing kickoff after the Eagles' field goal.) And it wasn't just the Eagles that didn't know the clock wasn't running, by the way. FOX had no idea either, and the Redskins' sideline only seemed to begin to realize it when the Eagles started complaining to the referees. I'm not taking full blame off of Reid here, but the way that Alberto Riveron managed the game in this situation was amateur hour.
Here's a video of the entire fiasco, from the McCoy run all the way through to the ensuing kickoff after the FG. (Warning - If you have high blood pressure, just do yourself a favor and skip it.)
4 - Ernie Sims' roughing the QB call - Hey, I get it. A guy like Peyton Manning is too important to the league to lose for the season because some 300 lb behemoth hits him late. I get why the league wants to protect the QB. But this roughing the QB call is downright embarrassing. Sims tried to HOLD HIM UP, if anything. What's next? Are QB's across the league going to be wearing red jerseys to indicate that they're off limits? Sadly, we're realistically not that far away from that extreme:
5 - Donovan McNabb's intentional grounding no-call - From the "digest of rules" on nfl.com:
"Intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing imminent loss of yardage due to pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion."
Now, there is of course the rule that allows the QB to throw the ball away if he's out of the pocket, just as long as the ball reaches the line of scrimmage. As you can see, McNabb's pass falls about 2 yards short of the line of scrimmage, but if that were Riveron's call, it would at least be somewhat forgivable. What isn't forgivable, however, is that Riveron's reasoning for the no-call for intentional grounding was... and I quote:
"It was determined that number 47 was in the area; therefore there is no foul for intentional grounding."
Well, Chris Cooley was about 15 yards away from where McNabb's pass landed. (Ignore Aikman's commentary on this, by the way, that maybe it was Mike Sellers that Riveron was referring to.) He meant Cooley, because after the ball had bounced a few times the ball was eventually within the same zip code as Cooley. I dare anyone to convince me that Donovan McNabb had a realistic chance of completing that pass to Chris Cooley, as is explained on nfl.com. If the NFL put out a video that described various penalties, this play would be an absolutely textbook example of intentional grounding:
As an Eagles fan, I thought I might feel better after putting this together and exposing the utter incompetence of Alberto Riveron and his crew last Sunday. Quite the opposite.