The biggest officiating controversy of the day, if not of the year, came from the Patriots-Jets game, which featured what appears to be a proper application of the most unfair rule in football.
In the fourth quarter, Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught the ball and carried it into the end zone. The ruling on the field was that he has scored a touchdown.
After further review, the touchdown for the Jets became a touchback for the Patriots.
So what happened? Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron (who has final say on all replay reviews) saw “clear and obvious” evidence of two key facts: (1) Seferian-Jenkins losing possession before he reached the goal line; and (2) Seferian-Jenkins failing to properly secure possession before he, and the ball, were out of bounds in the end zone.
The problem for the Jets is that Seferian-Jenkins failed to recover the ball before landing out of bounds in the end zone. If it had happened in the field of play, the Jets would have kept possession at the spot of the fumble. Because the ball went out of bounds in the end zone without Seferian-Jenkins regaining possession of it, by rule the outcome became a touchback for the Patriots.
The rule itself is ridiculously unfair. The defense, which has done nothing to secure possession of the ball, is awarded possession simply because the ball went out of bounds in the end zone. If the ball had gone out of bounds at the one, the Jets would have kept it.
As posted a year ago today, former NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino acknowledged that the NFL will continue to discuss the touchback rule.
“This has been discussed in the past,” Blandino said in a weekly media officiating video. “It will continue to be discussed [and] compared to the fumble forward out of bounds in the field of play where the offense maintains possession. That has been part of the discussion. But again the Competition Committee has not felt compelled to change this rule. And I’m sure they’ll discuss it again and we’ll see where they land after the season.”
With Seferian-Jenkins landing out of bounds without possession and the outcome landing like a thud with any fair-minded football fan, hopefully the discussion will continue.