Zebra Report: Controversy Swirls Once Again

FanHouse's resident referee will chime in weekly with thoughts on major topics relating to officiating. We call it The Zebra Report. Matt Snyder is a high school official with eight years experience. While this is like a third-year resident critiquing the work of a world-renowned surgeon, it's still better than someone who has never worn the stripes.

For example, if people really think the officials cost the Ravens the game, that is patently absurd. The Ravens allowed the Steelers to drive all the way down the field when it mattered most. The Ravens allowed Santonio Holmes to get open enough at the front portion of the end-zone to make a catch. I do have to respect Ray Lewis for being accountable, in saying that the call didn't cost them the game.

Anyway, there's a long list of things to hit this week. Let's get to it.

- Ryan Wilson asks:"In CIN-WAS game, Mike Sellers was stuffed at the goal line, his forward momentum was stopped, he then fumbled in the end zone and the Bengals recovered. Isn't the play supposed to be over when forward momentum is stopped? At least that's what an official said last week. Did they changes the rules this week?"

Well, no, but it's an incredibly difficult judgment call and we covered the quest to whistle at the most perfect time last week.

Joey Porter Shaun Hill after the play

- Tom Mantzouranis asks:Can you explain to me (and the FH audience) why Andre Gurode was penalized for illegal hands to the face on Antonio Pierce when it was essentially a facemask. The difference was a 10-yard penalty instead of the facemask's 15-yard penalty. What's the distinction between the two and why was Gurode's specifically illegal hands to the face?

Illegal hands to the face is the call when a guy is pushing a guy in the face but doesn't grasp the facemask. While it certainly appeared that Gurode did grasp the facemask for about a nanosecond in the slow-motion replay, we have to remember the penalizing official had a fast-motion view, and probably not the exact same angle we had as a viewing audience. I don't think this was an egregious error in the least, if it was one at all.

- Torry Holt is quite miffed about an offensive pass intereference which was called, negating a big gain for the Rams in the second half. I try to avoid getting into judgment calls because the officials on the field know a lot more about their job and what they saw than I do. I'll say that on the slow-motion replay -- which, again, those officials don't have the luxury of seeing -- it didn't really appear to satisfy the pass interference qualifications. I don't believe he gained an advantage, but that's just the opinion of someone much less qualified to offer a ruling than the man who called it. Anyway, that's not really why I wanted to include this. Here's why:

"To take that from us was not fair. They get paid to do what they do and we get paid to do what we do."

That was Holt's take on the call, and, boy, what a farcical statement. I don't even know if I need to go more in depth than simply saying this is clearly an apples and oranges comparison, but I will anyway. Torry Holt is making $7 million this season, which makes him the fourth highest paid wideout in the league. He's 43rd in receiving yards, 36th in receptions, 52 players have caught more touchdown passes, and his team is 2-12. If we want to start talking about money, let's start with you, Mr. Holt. You are one of the most overpaid players in football right now. The officials aren't paid nearly this much, people don't pay to watch them, and they deal with much more scrutiny than you do. To bring up money under these circumstances is quite irresponsible.

If you disagree with the call, you have every right to complain about it. Receiving complaints from players, coaches, and fans is part of the job of an official. Everyone who does this from elementary leagues all the way up to the NFL knows and accepts this, but when people start mentioning money they need to get a grip. If you want to say the officials should never make mistakes since they get paid, I'd like to see someone find an NFL player who never makes a mistake on the field or a perfect coach. Maybe they should start fining Holt for dropped passes, or not blocking as well as he should. Incomplete pass to an open receiver from Peyton Manning? Hey, he gets paid, that's unacceptable! Accountability should be for everyone, not just the guys in stripes.

- Josh Alper writes: During the Giants-Cowboys game they were talking a lot about an arm-bar PI call on, I think, Terence Newman who was covering, I think, Domenik Hixon or Steve Smith. The ball looked to be uncatchable and the contact seemed to be very incidental but Al Michaels and John Madden were both making a big deal of the arm-bar. Is that a particular point of emphasis?

Not that I know of. It's just as much a part of the pass interference qualifications as the other points. I have a feeling Madden became obsessed with a discussion point and just couldn't let it go. Which would be weird, because he, you know, never does that. Right?

- John Madden thought the holding call against Jason Witten on Dallas' last drive was "baloney" -- or "bologna," depending upon your preferred spelling.

Absurd on Madden's part. Witten hooked his arm around the waist of a defender right at the point of attack. That's a textbook holding call at every single level, in every single instance. I don't know what he was looking at. Maybe he was distracted by a turduckhen.

- And finally, what no one can stop talking about -- the Steelers score a late touchdown against the Ravens. Controversy surrounding referee Walt Coleman ensues.

Ryan Wilson already covered the wide variety of opinions across the media on this call. It's obvious with such polarizing thoughts thus far from well-known places that we can't get to the point where everyone is satisfied about the call. I'm fine with people leaving comments telling me how stupid I am, so I'll proceed with my opinion.

It was the correct call.

Cris Collinsworth

One thing in the aftermath that clouded matters was how Coleman's explanation made it sound like the receiver only had to have his feet in the end-zone. I don't care about that, really. The rules don't say anything about what an official is required to tell the crowd or viewing audience. Sure, it was confusing, but that doesn't mean the call was incorrect.

What really matters in the end, to me, is that the call was correct. I don't care about "indisputable evidence," the official's explanation, or what Ravens' fans think.

In regards to the "indisputable evidence" level of scrutiny, we do have a FanHouse roundtable coming this afternoon where we discuss the state of NFL Replay and whether or not it's doing the intended job. It's a great discussion, so I recommend you keep your eyes peeled on our front page.

That's all I've got for this week, so I will see you next week.

As always, this was not an all-inclusive list of calls which were whined about by fans. That isn't the aim of Zebra Report.

If you would like a rule or play reviewed (even if it's a local 8th grade game), you may submit one to our mailbox.

Zebra Report: Controversy Swirls Once Again originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Tue, 16 Dec 2008 14:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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