Shutdown Corner - NFL

Adventures in Officiating: Do some refs care more about face time than fairness?

If you know anything about NFL officiating, you're certainly familiar with Mike Carey, the verbose and occasionally acrobatic official who enjoys drawing out his penalty calls and making very … well … forward gestures when he's indicating penalties. Over the last couple of years, Carey and Ed Hochuli have seemed to lead the league in the need for facetime during games, but Carey may have taken things to a new level in Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans.

Carey's crew called 19 total penalties in the game, 15 of them in the first half alone, several of them were questionable, and on one — a holding call on Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod that negated a pass from Drew Brees to Darren Sproles — you can clearly see Carey's attention to detail.

He knows exactly where that TV camera is, and he will not let those players get in the way!

As Troy Aikman noted, hard to see anything there on Bushrod — several years ago, refs were instructed to look for the actual hold as opposed to the appearance of a hold — i.e., you can't call a hold unless you actually see one. We're still looking for one on that play.

Carey's crew also botched this touchdown from Brees to tight end Jimmy Graham. First, the incorrect incompletion call on the field … and then, the ruling upheld. FOX analyst Mike Pereira, the NFL's former VP of officiating, said on his Twitter account that there was not enough evidence to overturn the call.

I dunno, Mike — control of the ball, two feet in, looks pretty conclusive to me.

Look, it's not our intention to bash Carey or his crew for the occasional mistake. But recent referee behavior does bring a question to light — are we getting to the point where we have game officials as worried about gaining a name for themselves as calling a correct game?

Carey's had these types of games before this season — a Week 6 contest between the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers in which he called 21 penalties, and 15 were on the 49ers — a team that has had more than ten penalties in a game one other time and has averaged 8.3 penalties per game in their 11 other games. And in this game, the Saints were flagged 11 times, when they've averaged 6.5 to date this season. Both road teams, both unusually high penalty counts.

Do the best officials in every sport have a little ham in them? Perhaps. But the prima donna instinct is one thing … if you've got officials bending the game to their own needs for national attention, we have a serious problem here. I'm not saying that's what's happening for sure — maybe teams are just excessively chippy in games officiated Mike Carey. And for now (with an eye on future games), that's where we'll leave it.

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