I had this comic roughly sketched out on Sunday afternoon, and originally featured different teams, but basically just this since the teams are barely relevant. I wanted to do a piece about the NFL’s Pass Interference problem. Then Monday Night Football happened and opened up a much larger can of worms regarding the entire officiating issue, well beyond the PI problem. But, let’s start there, because that feels like a good origin point.

I think pretty much everyone expected the new PI rule to be a disaster. It was an obvious short-sighted reaction to the NFCCG mishap. What came as a surprise to all of us is that it is a disaster for reasons I’m not sure anyone expected. The Refs have almost gone rogue and are simply…not overturning anything. We expected the long delays and tedious waits every time the flag is thrown. What’s been outrageous is that none of it has mattered. It is like the officials all banded together to revolt against the rule, like they are offended that the coaches now have the ability to tell them they got a penalty call wrong. So they are just refusing to overturn anything. No matter how bad the missed PI was, or how bad the called PI was, now we are waiting several minutes for them to just ignore the obvious evidence presented to them and stick with the original call. The more conspiracy minded fans have already begun speculating that it is an attempt to make coaches reluctant to use the challenges so that they can just quietly remove the rule at the end of the season, like they already knew it was a mistake.

But considering the level of garbage calls the refs have not only made or missed, then 100% stood by even when gifted replay to change, really seems to indicate that there is some sort of secret mandate they are following. We just can only speculate as to why. It’s obvious to everyone watching these games that this rule has become even more of a farce than it was when it was conceived. Now the question is…how much of it is the refs, and how much of it is the NFL? These replays go to NY too, and they are supposed to be more impartial. They have 100% sided with the calls on the field. Something’s up.

Part of this is due to the implementation of more safety-oriented changes generating more flags. Part of this is the NFL rulebook becoming more and more chaotic and complicated. Part of this is the refs, most of whom are still not full time employees. For fuck’s sake. The fact that we don’t have a league of full-time refs (at least full-timers for each team if it can’t be the whole team) is a joke. The NFL needs an officiating overhaul. We need an AAF-style skyjudge. We need less reactionary rules that make the refs job worse after they mess something up. We need less sheepish apologies every week by the NFL after they fuck up. We need the rulebook stripped down and clarified to reduce the complicated shit the refs have to analyze in split seconds. Honestly, maybe we need fewer refs on the field and more impartial skyjudges to more quickly look at a potential call. It’s not an easy to solve problem but the problem is getting worse and the league better do something or we are going to keep having games tainted like this.

As an aside, one of the worst things about these tainted games is that they generate a lot of hate around two sides that in actuality, are not opposed. When a game is heavily decided at the end by officiating, you get two camps: THE REFS FUCKED US camp and the IF (TEAM) PLAYED BETTER IT WOULDN’T HAVE MATTERED camp. I’m guilty of this myself. I still happily troll Saints fans by reminding them that they choked away a big lead and failed in the NFCCG. Because, you know, they did. But the other side is also true. The Refs fucked the Saints. The Refs fucked the Lions. The Refs have fucked countless teams, very frequently the Lions. The problem here is that these two sides aren’t really in opposition because both arguments are true. The Lions could have and should have played better, but they also shouldn’t have gotten screwed over and they should have won. The fact that the game was close enough to be decided by the refs isn’t the Lions problem. The problem is that the refs shouldn’t be a deciding factor in a game no matter what. The Lions shouldn’t be losing close games because a third party decided to trip them at the goal line. Games shouldn’t be decided by the Zebras. When one game was decided by the Zebras (The Fail Mary), we got swift and efficient retribution. We need that to happen again, but we don’t have the easy scapegoat this time.