For the first time in over a week, the NFL has reportedly made a comment on the still-controversial pass interference non-call from last week’s NFC Championship Game featuring the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams. According to Adam Schefter, the league office has contacted the Saints and has admitted that it “f-ked up the call” when no penalty flag was thrown on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman for pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.
Schefter also reported that there are some in league circles wondering how four officials with California ties were able to officiate a game featuring an L.A team.
Head referee Bill Vinovich, side judge Gary Cavaletto, back judge Todd Prukop, and down Judge Patrick Turner are the officials in question. Each had responsible assignments on the now infamous non-call.
“The NFL put [itself] in a bad situation,” one officiating source told Schefter. “This is stuff that has to be taken care of prior to game. It’s just guys not thinking of what’s going on, nobody doing their checks and balances. The league is usually pretty much on top of it. This is one that slipped through the cracks.”
Another league source added, “I haven’t heard anybody say the game was fixed; I have heard people say the crew F’ed up,” one high-level league source told ESPN. “But the optic is bad. It’s a legit issue and they should have figured that out.”
Many in officiating circles don’t believe that having the four California officials had an impact on the game. However, it has made some wonder why these officials weren’t assigned to the Patriots-Chiefs game in Kanas City, especially when the league tries to not have the image of impropriety.
Two of the league most recognizable officials in recent memory, Ed Hochuli and Mike Carey, would never officiate a game that featured either the Arizona Cardinals or the San Diego Chargers, respectively.
The last time an issue with an official at a game featuring a hometown team was in 2012 when the league’s officials went on strike. Replacement referee Brian Stropolo was assigned to a game featuring the Saints and Carolina Panthers, and had admitted to being a Saints fan. The league pulled Stropolo off of the game the morning it was to be played.
There are differences in the two cases, but it is likely to trigger a discussion about how the officials assignments were made and how they will be handed out in the future.
For Super Bowl LIII next Sunday between the Rams and Patriots, according to a source, there are no officials with any ties to Southern California or Massachusetts.
Featured image by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
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