October 30, 2011
It would be safe to assume that the worst thing on the field during the Philadelphia Eagles 34-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys was Rob Ryan's once-vaunted defense. Yet Gene Steratore's officiating crew gave the Cowboys defense a run for its money on a botched call midway through the third quarter of Sunday night's game.
What you're about to watch is one of the worst on-field rulings I've ever seen. And that's not the sort of instant hyperbole that we love to use to declare every baseball game to be the best ever and that every passing performance is the greatest of all time; no, this is seriously one of the most atrocious calls ever. It combined incompetence with stubbornness and groupthink and a complete inability to form an imaginary parallel line on the line of scrimmage.
As the video below shows, Michael Vick(notes) throws a ball from the 12-yard line. DeSean Jackson(notes) tries and fails to catch it at the 9. Vick throws it 3 yards forward to Jackson; I repeat, 3 yards forward. Yet officials saw it differently, somehow ruling that the pass went backward.
Andy Reid has never met a challenge he didn't like. In this case, there was no risk involved. He was challenging the most blatant bad call of the 2011 NFL season. Referee Gene Steratore realized said mistake upon review (which took two minutes, 30 seconds to correct even though every person watching the game on television knew the call was wrong in three seconds) and correctly ruled the pass as forward.
Good for Gene for getting it right, but what happened in the first place? Steratore initially declared that the ruling on the field was a backward pass and second down for the Eagles. One of those things had to be wrong: Either it was a backward pass, a fumble and first down Cowboys, or it was a forward pass, incomplete and second down Eagles. One, but not both.
In theory, Steratore could have confused himself on his initial ruling and stuck with his second, mistaken interpretation out of stubbornness. Believing that he'd put his own ego over an NFL call is bad, but better than the alternative: That he and his crew actually believed a ball Vick threw 3 yards forward went backward instead.
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