One day after his team was flagged 15 times for 106 yards in a 27-27 tie to the Cincinnati Bengals in London, coach Jay Gruden acknowledged that, like an other coaches and players in the NFL this season, he’s frustrated with inconsistencies in the way officiating crews are calling games.
“After watching the film, I don’t know,” Gruden said of some of the calls in Sunday’s game, including five flags on cornerback Josh Norman for putting his hands in the face of Bengals’ wideout A.J. Green.
“Some of them were not very blatant, that’s for sure. Some of the glancing hits to the facemask on [Bengals wide receiver] A.J. Green, I don’t understand them. There was no intent there to injure. It was absolutely just a glancing blow that had nothing to do with anything. They called them. They thought it was a penalty and we just have to make sure as defensive backs that we have our hands down. [corner back Quinton] Dunbar had two or three, I think, holding calls. One of them in the end zone, I don’t know what to teach him. He’s jamming his guy, [Cincinnati quarterback] Andy [Dalton] threw it over the guy’s head and threw it out of bounds, but they called holding again.”
Gruden’s comments come after Norman delivered a frustrated post-game rant Sunday about referee Brad Freeman. Freeman has been a ref in the NFL for three seasons.
“Who is 88 [Freeman’s number]?” Norman told USA Today’s Martin Rogers. “I just got to know. Who is official 88? He sucked. Just got to be honest with you. I’m going to be straightforward. He was terrible and I feel he like should be reprimanded. I feel like some of the plays that was going on out there … it was terrible.”
Gruden said Norman, widely regarded as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, may be getting targeted a bit more by referees and by opponents because of his status.
“He’s such a high-profile player and he plays so hard,” Gruden said. “He’s always up there in bump-and-run. Playing physical with the receivers, I think they keep a close eye on him and his matchup. I think some of the great corners have had to go through that a little bit. I think [Darrelle] Revis probably has in his career. Just goes with the territory. When you’re a great player, people keep a closer on eye you.”
“But, he’s going to have to deal with it,” Gruden said. “Work on his hand placement. Just continue to work and get better and better.”
The Redskins’ officiating concerns, however, were overshadowed around the league Monday by the stinging criticisms of officials in the wake of comments by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who sparked a national discussion Sunday by complaining, openly and angrily, that he is treated differently by the referees.
Newton’s remarks were cheered by many players and members of the media, including former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who said on NBC’s “Football Night in America” that the Carolina quarterrback’s coach, Ron Rivera, needs to speak up on behalf of the league’s 2015 MVP.
“Cam should not have to be the one saying this. His head coach, his owner and everybody in the organization should be saying this,” Dungy said.
According to an Associated Press report, Rivera has said he is working behind the scenes with the NFL and the Players Association on resolving the issue. He and general manager Dave Gettleman had another conversation with the league office on Monday morning.
“This is something I work on every week, quite frankly,” Rivera said. “I don’t talk about it because it’s between me and the league and this team. This is something that has become public because of Cam’s statements.”
Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb said Monday Newton’s got a point.
“I have been in that situation,” McNabb said Monday on ESPN. “When you are behind the line of scrimmage, you are a passer. When I am looking to throw the ball down the field and I get ear-holed or if I get hit low, the referee has to throw the flag. Cam is absolutely right — if Tom Brady gets hit low then they are going to throw a flag.”
Others around the league were less sympathetic. Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert said his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger — 6-foot-5, like Newton — takes just as much punishment.
“Ben gets hit more than anybody in the league, and he never complains. C’mon, man. This is the game of football,” Gilbert told ESPN. “If you’re out there and you’re scared to take a shot, then don’t be out there, especially if you’re a running quarterback. [Defenses] are going to take shots at you. Just the way, his style of playing football, how he celebrates, I guess he gives the guys a chip, like let’s go hit the reigning NFL MVP.”
According to the NFL’s operation website, 40,400 NFL plays from the 2014 season were viewed and evaluated to determine the level of competency of NFL officials. According to the report, officials got the play calls right 95.9 percent of the time. Each referee has a year-to-year contract and each can be “remediated or demoted” following a sub-par year.