There's an interesting dynamic going on in the NFL this season in that rookie head coaches seem to be more open and honest about their displeasure with calls made by referees. On Monday, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera took that concept a bit further by claiming that when you're a new coach in the NFL, it takes time to build up "equity" among the existing officiating crews.
Rivera's Panthers currently rank fourth in the NFL with 65 total penalties (74 if you include declined and offsetting), and they've lost 560 yards as a result. They've had 19 holding penalties and 11 false starts, with eight defensive offside calls — a penalty officials appear to be calling with increasing frequency — as well.
"I do feel that as a first-year coach, you're not getting the calls you would like to be balanced out. That's just kind of the way it is," Rivera said Monday. "We'll go through it and as we become a team where people tend to pay a little more attention to us and respect what we do, hopefully we'll get some breaks.
"I do think that sometimes certain things happen, certain coaches do get a little bit more towards their way."
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who seems to have all Coach of the Year votes sewn up after leading his new squad to a 7-1 start, was very vocal about a number of penalties that happened in his team's win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Specifically, when tight end Justin Peelle shifted up and was flagged for simulating a snap. The penalty called by Gene Steratore's crew forced the 49ers to kick a field goal, and Harbaugh was fairly apoplectic about it on the sideline.
Former NFL VP of officiating Mike Pereira, who now works for Fox Sports as a rules analyst, gave Harbaugh a pointed — and possibly veiled — response in his weekly column after he explained the penalty in question.
"This was a false start," Pereira wrote. "It was fourth-and-1 and we have seen teams make sudden shifts, just trying to draw the defense offside. We call this a 'no-play shift.' And you penalize the shifting team. A shift of two or more players is legal as long as it is smooth and continuous. That was not the case here. That shift was solely done to draw a foul and the officials were alert to this action. That has been on a training tape to the officials before this game, and in my opinion, the crew got this right."
No surprise there — Pereira is notorious for hedging his criticisms of the officials he used to work with, and he will tend to ignore those calls that put officials in a bad light. But just as he had no issue taking off after the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season, Pereira took this particular opportunity to slam Harbaugh.
"After watching this game, here's some advice for young Mr. Harbaugh: We're only halfway through the season — take some deep breaths and enjoy the ride."
Pereira also took a jab at Harbaugh for his supposed love of TV "face time," which is rather hilarious when you consider the screen-hogging antics of refs like Mike Carey and Ed Hochuli (Carey flagged the 49ers an incredible 15 times when San Francisco faced Detroit on Oct. 16). I tend to wonder if this was a veiled warning to Harbaugh — was Pereira telling the coach to back off the criticisms if he ever wanted to get the calls going his way?
Either way, it seemed like a rather condescending and insulting thing to say — Harbaugh's a 15-year NFL veteran quarterback and a man who worked his way up the coaching ranks. He deserved more respect than for Pereira, who wasn't ever a head official in the NFL, to use the "young Mr. Harbaugh" crack. Given Pereira's spotty record when it comes to full disclosure (he failed to mention the timeout botched by that same officiating crew), and his complete and utter joke of a tenure as an officiating consultant with the PAC-12, he'd be best advised to keep his opinions to himself and stick to the facts as much as he is able.
When asked about anything he heard from the league on Monday, Harbaugh was unusually reserved. "All conversations with the league and the clubs are privileged and confidential," Harbaugh said. "But satisfactorily explained, understanding of what to tell our players, and we'll move on from there.
"I think the game should be played and officiated without people thinking what the intent is, or may be, or without explanations. Football is football. There's a way to play it, there's a way to officiate it and everybody does the best that they possibly can to do that."
Looks like someone's learning how the game within the game is played.