Shutdown Corner Mailbag: The refs only stink when they call against your team

Jay Busbee
Shutdown Corner

It's a new week, friends, and that means we’re throwing the doors wide open to you and your questions, comments, complaints, rants and one-liners here in the Shutdown Mailbag. You know the drill here: unburden your football soul via email at or via Twitter at @jaybusbee. Now, gather ‘round.

Absolutely. If the Patriots were on D and won the game after the refs picked up the flag, the entire rest of the country would be losing its collective mind over the Brady-Belichick Jedi Mind Trickery and the NFL-New England conspiracy. We're not over the stupid Tuck Rule yet, and that story's almost old enough to drive. Yes, America sees the Panthers as legitimate winners but would see the Patriots as undeserving NFL darlings in the exact same situation. You've got your championships, Boston, deal with the disgust of the rest of the nation. Seriously, anything that helps the Boston-area fanbase inflate its collectively outrageous sense of entitlement and self-esteem is a moral wrong.

Look, it's obvious that the refs yanked the flag because of bias from being in Charlotte. That's understandable, a widely-proven fact and, as the book "Scorecasting" notes, the only way in which home-field advantage actually exists. The only positive of a reversal of the teams would have been a truly epic Steve Smith tirade, one that could have been an all-timer. Ah, well. There's always the postseason. Speaking of which ...


How can the 49ers make the playoffs? They still have games against teams with winning records!
-Dave R

Painful, but true. The 49ers have had a rough go of it lately, with Colin Kaepernick thudding back to earth and the team suddenly looking a long way from its Super Bowl version of last year. But this past week's near-and-possibly-should-have-been victory against New Orleans was a good sign, and here's a better one: San Francisco has three damn near guaranteed wins yet to come on the schedule in Atlanta, Washington and Tampa Bay, plus a winnable St. Louis matchup. There's another possible classic with Seattle looming, plus the season-ender against Arizona that's going to have those Potential Playoff Implications we always talk about in deep voices.

In other words, San Francisco has the red carpet to the playoffs spread out before it. If the 49ers trip and go face-first onto it, they've got no one to blame but themselves.


Classic video break! Patriots fans, take heart ... there's a litany of terrible calls across NFL history. Here's a prime one, from the 1979 AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Oilers (they became the Tennessee Titans, young'uns). Houston QB Dan Pastorini lofted a perfect corner pass to Mike Renfro in the end zone, and ...

You'll note that this game was played in Pittsburgh. Think that had anything to do with the call? Nah.


Using today's standard of measure, most defensive players in the Hall of Fame would still be paying for fines to the NFL today for what were once considered great defensive plays. From Deacon Jones to Ronnie Lott, those kind of defensive stops were what once defined great defensive players. Now the NFL is embarrassing itself with this kind of contradictory idiocy. Is football a contact sport or not?
-T Jefferson

Yeah, it's a contact sport, but it's a sport that's changing. Many of those "great defensive plays" are precisely what led to NFL players concussed out of their minds for the second half of their lives. Yes, yes, they chose this life, it's a tough job, blah blah. You simply cannot trust a young potential NFL player to make a choice on his own that could have short-term benefits but long-term harm, especially when there are 20 guys right behind him willing to step right over him for the right to get their own brains pancaked.

I agree that there needs to be some kind of consistency. But we're in a transitional period in the NFL right now. Our grandkids will look back on this era the way we look back on leather helmets: holy crap, what were they thinking, going out there like that? It's a painful and very frustrating transition now, but if you want the NFL to exist in a legitimate form 20, 30, 40 years from now, this is a necessary change.


I’m thinking the Packers go 8-8. We are in trouble. Detroit is not going to fold. What do you think?
-Nancy McPoyle

I'm thinking 8-8 might be a bit optimistic, Nancy. As last week's loss to the Giants showed, the Packers are absolutely nothing without Aaron Rodgers. These guys are scary, ribs-showing-through-skin thin. Rodgers says he's coming back by Thanksgiving, but coming back and being effective are two very different things. The Packers are about fifth in line for the final playoff spots in the NFC, and they don't have the muscle to shove aside some of the big dogs ahead of them. Rodgers would be better off cooking a couple more brats in grill class than coming back too early.


How to you ban a person from the stadium? Retina scanners at the gates? Palm readers? Do tell.

Got something in mind, Tim? Careful. Anyway, the stadium won't actively ban you; it's not like there's a photo of your face up at each concourse entrance with a TASER ON SIGHT command beneath. (Unless you're Josh Freeman at Tampa, Ed Reed at Houston, or Tim Tebow anywhere, that is.) But if you do get caught? Oh boy. You're criminally trespassing, and then you're in a world of hurt. An NFL game isn't worth years of incarceration. Except maybe Saints-Seahawks next month. That's going to be good.

All right, friends, that’ll do it for this week. Think you can do better than this week’s round of letter-writers? Take your shot by emailing or tweeting via the contacts below. This is also a reminder that you can tune in to our twice-weekly podcast, the catchily-named Shutdown Corner Podcast, right here on iTunes. And come on back to Shutdown Corner every day, multiple times a day, for the best NFL coverage in the known universe.

Enjoy the games, everybody!

Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!