Trevor Bauer, Aaron Rodgers, and more

2. NFL Referees

NFL Referees

Illustration: Getty Images

The NBA was absolutely correct this offseason. James Harden doesn’t need to shoot 11 free throws per game. We don’t watch to see if Scott Foster is going to call a foul when Harden backs up into a defender he already dribbled past. Unlike the financial industry, sports need less regulation, not more.

Unfortunately, the NFL has decided the opposite is true. It has decided that the Hamburglar shirts need to be more a part of a show in which games are frequently decided by which team has less people in concussion protocol and air casts. If that isn’t arbitrary enough, NFL referees have decided to stick their beaks into situations where they don’t belong and are costing teams games.

Penalties have to be called, but the point of the rules are for safety and competitive balance. However, if we’re going to have people instead of robots referee games:

  1. Exercise some judgement. They’re selective on when they call holding on the offensive line, use that logic elsewhere
  2. Don’t make several ghastly calls in the same game

There were 28 penalties called in the Dallas Cowboys-Las Vegas Raiders Thanksgiving game, 14 on each team, and four on Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown. On that final pass interference penalty, it could be argued that Raiders wide receiver Zay Jones made enough contact to prevent Brown from turning his head to look for the ball and not faceguard. A play with that type of mutual contact is not a tie goes to the runner situation on 3rd and 18 in overtime. Those are the types of calls that decide games, and the referees need to stop making them.

The most egregious display of that is the Chicago Bears’ Monday Night Football loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was the touchdown pass that was taken away because Bears guard James Daniels got called for a low block on play where he didn’t make contact with anyone. There was also a roughing the passer called in defense of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and a play with much more egregious contact after the pass went uncalled for Bears quarterback Justin Fields.

Then, possibly the most legendary taunting penalty of all time. Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh causes a 4th and 15 with a sack, and celebrates. He then receives a taunting flag for taunting… absolutely no one. There is no one near him, how else would he have space for a spinning roundhouse kick, straight out of a martial arts movie. This is taunting — on Thanksgiving New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata puts his facemask in Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s ear hole to talk trash while in front of a referee, and no flag.

These are just a handful of examples, we won’t even get to the phantom helmet-to-helmet hit on Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill or some questionable pass interference calls when the Indianapolis Colts took on the NFL’s favorite son, Tom Brady. The NFL even going in the complete opposite direction of the NBA on rewarding players who cause contact, and allowing receivers to draw penalties by running into defensive backs on underthrown balls.

This is the most wide open NFL season in a long time. We should spend Thursday-Monday enjoying the NFL, instead of wanting to roundhouse kick a referee Chuck Norris/Cassius Marsh style. NFL, you’re already following the NBA’s lead in making symbolic gestures against racism, why not follow their lead in something that will at least make the product better?

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