Phantom roughing-the-passer call on Za’Darius Smith could have been fixed by booth umpire

·2 min read

As you know, we’re big proponents of the concept of a booth umpire. Specifically, a member of the officiating crew who would be watching what the rest of us watch, and who would be helping the on-field officials get the calls right.

Given that the Ravens proposed this approach in the offseason and that the league has (for now) resisted, we’ll point out situations in which it would have come in handy unless and until it’s adopted.

Recently case in point: On-field officials flagged Packers linebacker Za'Darius Smith for roughing Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, wiping out an interception. There was, however, no helmet contact. No driving of the player into the ground. No multiple steps after release of the ball and impact. No scooping of the quarterback or otherwise extra placement of body weight by the defender on the passer.

Instead, Smith simply hit Winston too hard. Whenever one player legally hits another player that hard in today’s NFL, there’s a presumption it must be illegal, because players rarely get hit like that anymore.

Mike Golic pointed out during Monday’s PFT Live how ridiculous the call was. It was so bad that, in theory, a booth umpire could have gotten in the ear of referee Carl Cheffers and advised him to pick up the flag.

That’s the real purpose of a sky judge or a booth umpire. Giving the on-field officials (who primarily are trying to survive among the gladiators) the benefit of the images and angles that millions see. The sooner that gap is conclusively bridged, the better off the game will be. The bad call on Smith is the latest — and hardly the last — example of it.

Phantom roughing-the-passer call on Za’Darius Smith could have been fixed by booth umpire originally appeared on Pro Football Talk