Friday evening quarterback

November 06, 2009 | Keith Melchior

 How about that beatdown the Eagles put on the New York Giants? I sure didn’t see that coming. That gave the G-men their 3rd straight loss after a 5-0 start. The Eagles were hitting on all cylinders and if they can do the same to Dallas this week ,they’ll find themselves atop the NFC East. Hey, as long as they all whip up on the lowly Redskins, it doesn’t matter who wins the division but Philly has to be the odds on favorite after that drubbing.

Minnesota traveled to Green Bay as Brett Favre came home again. It was funny seeing how they changed the names of the streets around Lambeau Field for that game. Favre again got the job done as the Vikes swept the Pack and improved to 7-1. They’ve pretty much sewn up that division having already played and split with 2 tough foes from the AFC North. They’ve proven themselves as a Super Bowl contender.

Another team that showed it’s prowess to come out on top is New Orleans. Atlanta had them on the ropes and somehow Drew Brees got it done to keep the Saints unbeaten. The Colts got a TD pass from someone not named Manning in their come from behind win against San Francisco. The 49ers forgot to run the ball in the 2nd half after jumping out to a 14-6 lead. On a local note Matt Stover hit 4 FGs in the Colts win. (I don’t think any were more than 40 yards though)

This week there are some key matchups as the Ravens travel to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh travels to Denver andno one wants to travel to Cleveland because they might get fired. What a mess that franchise has become. The GM gets canned after being recommended for the job by the head coach. Last I looked the GM makes trades and deals but the team is controlled on the field by the head coach. Jamal Lewis is jumping off that sinking ship too, by announcing his retirement after the season is over. He took the cash andhad 1 good season there but looked sadly like the Jamal Lewis who limped away from the Ravens. Look for Cleveland to change direction after the season ends or remain the laughing stock of the NFL. Another laughing stock is Tampa and look for them to make a coaching change as well unless they can get untracked over the next 9 weeks.

On another note, the NFL needs to improve upon itself where game management is concerned. Over the past 10 years, NFL officials have developed a very tarnished image that really could use a make-over from top to bottom. Too often we see balls spotted incorrectly, flags thrown well after the play, questionable contact against the quarterbacks, obvious holding allowed at the point of attack, flags thrown for fouls that are subsequently overturned, time wasted on challenge reviews, and just a lack of inconsistency across the board with all officiating crews. One crew seems to go into a game focusing on holding, one focuses on pass interference and illegal contact, one focuses on blocks in the back, while others focus on false starts, formations and line play. It appears that for the last 4 weeks, official’s calls vary from week to week, and not just in games involving the Ravens. It happens across the board in just about every game. I always felt the first call by an official, unless totally obvious, has to dictate the way the remainder of the game will be handled. If the referees aren’t going to call a holding penalty in the first 3 quarters, then they cannot or should not call it in the 4th. If they start calling blocks in the back on kicks and punts in the first quarter they must continue to focus on them for the rest of the game. We are very spoiled to watch football on TV with the benefit of slow-motion instant replays.  Those watchers of ESPN and the NFL Network see plays and calls broken down well after the fact almost ad nauseum.

 I think they should have exclusive replay judges that determine the outcomes of  questionable plays and challenges. Like the NHL with their goal or no goal rulings, these replay judges would determine catch/no catch, score / no score, fumble / no fumble, inbounds /out of bounds and radio to the head referee the outcome if it is challenged.

 We could debate for weeks and weeks what the NFL should do to improve it’s image, especially where the officiating is concerned. Many have called for the officials to be full-time employees, that must work for the league at least 10 months out of the year, but only working 1 day per week what would hey do the other 6 days to make themselves better officials on the field.

The NFL changes rules as much as we change socks and the officials need to keep up with all the changes. If the NFL chose to simplify the rules I’m sure we’d see more consistency across the board. As a 4 sport official I know it’s hard to remain focused in every game from start to finish, but all the training you receive can help you on the field WHEN you see the things you’ve read and talked about come to life. I was always taught that the first call you make has to set the tone for the rest of the game and it can’t be a ticky-tack or cheap call.

Last week against Denver, we saw the side judge ignore an obvious hold against Derrick Mason and we saw the back judge throw a flag for pass interference on Domonique Foxworth from 25 yards away and the flag came late, very late, and the play was right in front of that same side judge. We also saw a holding penalty against the Ravens in the 4th quarter. That happened to be the ONLY holding penalty called all afternoon. Looking at replays, there were at least 10 other times when holding should have been called but was ignored.

We all watch other teams play football games on Sundays and Mondays and we all see the same inconsistency with the common penalties week after week. All I am saying is, if the officials are going to call the most common penalties such as holding, roughing the passer, blocking in the back, illegal contact, they need to start calling them in the first quarter to set the tone, then mix in the not-so-common penalties later when they occur. I think we’d all be sort of happy with that.