Blog & Tackle: The last words on the ‘The Kick’ …

November 22, 2007 | Chris Pika

Since there has been so much written and said about how Cleveland’s field goal at the end of regulation was handled by the officiating crew, I wanted to pass along the review made by Mike Pereira, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating during his segment on NFL Network’s Total Access on Wednesday.

To watch the video, click here (via NFL.com).

The biggest issue was in the “mechanics” of how the two officials assigned under the goal post uprights handle the adminstration of the kick and the result.

Back in the late ’80s, I worked as a high school basketball official in the Baltimore area and I have always observed how officials work on the field individually and as a crew using mechanics which are drilled starting from the first day of classroom and field work when rookie officials learn how to work the game.

During my time in the NFL with the Saints, I had a chance to ask questions to game officials who worked our annual training camp intrasquad scrimmages and got a chance to understand the game and how they call the game from their perspective.

As I explained on Sunday after the game, one of the two officials (Back Judge #61 Keith Ferguson on the left upright) seemed to indicate the field goal was good by nodding his head while the other official (Field Judge #58 Jim Saracino working the right upright) pointed to the ground in front of the crossbar and eventually waved it “no good”.

The proper “mechanic” is that once the ball clears the crossbar or goes to either side, BOTH officials glance at end other, silently nod if it’s good or shake their heads if it is no good before walking out from the end line together and making the proper signal in unison. Most people watch the ball go all of the way through and the silent signal between the two officials goes unnoticed.

The mistake that started the confusion was that Saracino emphatically pointed to the ground and waved “no good” while Ferguson was nodding at Saracino to indicate a “good” field goal without raising his hands in the traditional signal.

Saracino’s “mechanics” were improper and I am sure — based on Pereira’s review — he was told in strong terms about how it should have been handled on Monday after the league reviewed the procedure.

The proper way was for the two officials to recognize that they disagreed, immediately get together under the goal to discuss it and head toward the referee without any histronics, pointing, etc., so that the correct call can be discussed and made. Remember, the clock stops after a field goal attempt (unless there is a return) and there is no reason to rush the call — just get it it right.

Saracino got caught up in the moment of the kick deciding the game, and tried to sell his view without consulting with his partner on the other side who clearly (on the tape) had a differing opinion. Ferguson had a better angle to see the ball hit the upright, bound off the extension and come back into the field of play. The ball hit on Saracino’s side of the extension and the crossbar could have obscured his view.

In each NFL game, there are three teams on the field — the home team, the visitors and the officiating crew. The six men in stripes make — and don’t make — hundreds of potential calls each game. Those men are the best of the best and make split-second decisions in a game that literally flashes in front of them at high speed. They are constantly quizzed on rules and game situations, have each of their calls/non-calls graded by the league’s officiating office and watch DVD’s — not only of their past game with comments from the office — but one filled with key calls from other games in the previous week.

Officials in all sports are looked at more closely after the betting scandal that enveloped a NBA referee over the summer and conspiracy theories certainly abound. The NFL has done its’ best to open the curtain on how the game is officiated and Pereira’s public review of calls gives fans a different view of how “third team on the field’ operates each week.

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Questions, comments, etc.: ChrisPika@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

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