Thursday, September 27, 2012

Worst Call in NFL History Analyzed

The NFL call by Lance Easley between the Greenbay Packers and Seattle Seahawks on September 24, 2012 makes me wonder why people have the "perspective" they do!  Lance Easley, a replacement referee, has taken a lot of heat for his "touchdown" call during the in-zone catch. If you have been under a rock and have not seen the catch, watch it below.

But first, let me ask you something. What would you see in the picture if it flashed in front of your eyes for only one second? Would you bet 300 million dollars on it? This is the position I believe Lance Easley was unfortunately put into. By the way, the fact that you have looked at the picture again and for more than a second already disqualifies you from being in the position this referee was in! I apologize for the image, but I wanted to make a point.

Let's get into the play from a unique perspective. (However, as it turns out, the play was much more complicated and was ruled a touchdown for various other reasons. See far below or watch this The referee called what he saw and what anyone would have seen from his particular angle. The media has gone nuts with this call. All of America had the opportunity to see the actual catch from various angles and in slow motion. Lance made the call any ref at any level would of made if they were in his exact line of vision.  I'm only proposing that the original call was accurate based on perspective. There is a lot of other arguments regarding the rules of interference as well as other aspects of this "controversy" that are already clear.

As you hear in the video, even the seasoned announcers say and see, in REAL TIME, "...which is fought for by Tate and Jennings simultaneously... who has it... who'll they give it too... touchdown!..."

If you look at the angle Lance "the ref" is specifically located, it would look as if the ball indeed landed in the Seahawks/Tate player's hands. Lance was about 70 degrees to the right and front of the catch, 7 yards away with slightly lower vantage point - which lines up the hands and ball exactly. Tate was a foot lower than Jennings. The ball, hands and arm movements would line up perfectly to appear to be a solid catch by Tate… followed by what looks like Jennings trying to strip it out of the Seahawks/Tate's hands as they fell.  (BTW, dual possession rules consider it a touchdown when they both hit the ground regardless of the catch in the air, but this is not my point here.) The ref saw it real time and from one particular "perfect" angle. Remember, it was a perfect angle, seen once, seen from ground level and seen in a blink. From my expertise of visual illusions, Lance made the exact call I think anyone would likely have made from his EXACT position. I believe the accumulation of LAME calls by fill-in refs all month long broke the camels back at this point for people. If this was a court case, I'd certainly have a great model/illusion to reveal how Lance's angle shows something different than the rest of us see. Again, I'm only suggesting a point about this unique perspective/angle. The issue of both men actually holding the ball as they touched the ground, interference, the review process and other arguments are another conversation...

In addition to this looking like a solid catch from HIS perspective, the media and personal attacks on this great guy seem off base and highly inappropriate. He was the fall guy to a degree in a stressed system making billions of dollars. He had 3 months of intensive NFL training, met their "criteria", ref'd several preseason games, etc. He did not just show up that Monday in a uniform and say, "Hey, I'll do it." As we all know, all the seasoned NLF guys were on strike. It's a real bummer deal. It's a high dollar sport. The players, coaches, refs and everyone involved should be top notch. The viewers, advertisers and players deserve the best. It bites to see a nice guy with great skills go through this mess when there are (or should be) systems in place to avoid this. There are TONS of VERY seasoned NFL ref's who make "BAD" calls based on the angle they see something. Other ref's see something different from their perspective. Reviews are made and decisions come out. This situation is what it is... but comments like "He's JUST from a small town" or "He JUST a banker" or "He JUST coaches kids" should have nothing to do with anything. It appears like he was putting in the effort and work for some time. He stepped up to a challenge that presented itself and should be commended. I'm only suggesting people see all sides because cyber bullying is the new sport/hobby for America it seems. When someone deserves it, give it to them if you must. When someone is doing their job and their decision can be easily supported, people need to look at the real problems at hand. I rarely take the time to put in my two cents about overly-dramatic, hyped up "stuff" on TV or in pop-culture, but the amount of hateful and off-base attacks toward this guy are upsetting. Lance is a friend to me and his community and does a ton to help those around him. If people look at the play from his perspective and not from what they already see, know or hear, they'd see it quite differently perhaps.

By the way, official NLF rules support that as the guys were falling down, both had control when both feet or bodies touched the ground...which was clearly Tate. REGARDLESS of who actually caught the ball in mid-air. Official rules call this a touchdown, like it or not. Yet, even with this, Lance still get bashing from the media. It's ridiculous. Worst call in history? Not even close.

From TMZ: Easley ruled it a touchdown, while back judge Derrick Rhone-Dunn simultaneously ruled it an interception and a touchback. Eventually Rhone-Dunn and Easley ruled that Tate and Jennings had simultaneous possession, which counts as a reception. Upon review by instant replay officials, it was determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the touchdown call.

When asked about the call in an interview with TMZ days later, Easley stood by his ruling, saying "It was the correct call." When asked why it wasn't an interception, he said, "You have to not only have the ball but have either two feet or a body part on the ground, and that never happened." He later added, "Put any other official who knows the rules and they would make the same call."


The complete breakdown:

The refs call was RIGHT?- First we need to define a catch:

A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule Book defines a catch:
A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).
When a player (or players) is going to the ground in the attempt to catch a pass, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:
Player Going to the Ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:
Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.

Click to enlarge image. You can see in this pic that beyond any doubt at all, Tate has two feet on the ground and Jennings did not. This is where “the catch’ happened.

The key to the NFL’s explanation is that the catch is not made until the receiver lands.  Here’s a reverse angle look from video:

Now here is the crux of the argument. Tate had possession here, the game is over. That’s the important part of the NFL’s argument… The play ended here, before Jennings even landed. Nothing after that fact mattered.

Now did he have control? After watching the video like 10 times IF YOU STOP LOOKING AFTER TATE’S FEET HIT THE GROUND he does. Remember, after Tate catches the ball the play is over. He’s in the end zone so he does not have to be tackled. At the beginning of the jump, he did not have possession, but he reaches in again and pretty clearly wraps his arms around the ball (and the defender’s arms) as his feet hit the ground. AFTER they both hit the ground and the play is over M.D. Jennings wrestles it away. It was not even a simultaneous catch, Jennings was still in the air.

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking. He never had control and/or he was not able to “ward off an opponent.” But the fact they wrestled over the ball disproves this point. He had possession for several second AFTER the play was over. Yes, he also had possession of M.D. Jennings arms. Jennings, might have had it closer to his chest but that is irrelevant to the ruling. If you still doubt Tate had his arms around the ball, this screen cap will end the discussion.

So, again, I have to ask... worst call in history? You could argue that it was the greatest call in history. Regardless, the endless finger pointing and hatred toward one man or a few in a massive billion dollar system is a horrible sight to see. Even with specific rulings and definitions (if we agree with them or not) and other evidence, the attacks continue. The replacement refs did their jobs to the best of their ability and deserve more from us. Is the sport better off with the seasoned NFL refs back? Certainly... maybe. That's not the point. We get to reducible others and move on like it didn't happen. This is a case, on a massive scale, of cyber and media bullying... and with proof we were all wrong and he was in the right. Sad day for sports and community... but it all balances out. I can't wait to see what unique opportunities come from this. Lance, you rock.

Thanks for sharing the magic!

E-mail Rich
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