One of the strangest developments from a strange Week 8 came after the opening drive of Monday night's game between the Raiders and the Lions. As Week 9 begins, the question becomes when and if we'll see it again.
For the first time ever, the NFL interjected its head of officiating into a live broadcast. Appearing from 345 Park Avenue, Walt Anderson defended a non-call of roughing the passer after ESPN rules analyst John Parry said that grounding should have been called.
The next day, the league provided a vague and general explanation of why Anderson was activated at that time.
Was it a specific reaction to Parry's claim that the call was wrong? Was it the final straw for a league office that has been besieged with external and internal complaints regarding the quality of officiating this season? One day earlier, for example, Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson suggested that officials were on the take.
Unless Anderson will be making regular appearances to discuss calls that create controversy or require elaboration, the most likely explanation was that someone sitting in a corner office at the Ivory Tower decided he'd heard enough criticism of officiating, with the latest scrutiny from a broadcast partner's on-air rules analyst being the thing that prompted the league to lash out.
That doesn't make it the right move. It actually makes it the wrong move. The simple fact that the NFL activated Anderson creates an expectation from the audience that it wasn't a one-off effort to release steam, but that it was the advent of a new age of transparency. When Anderson inevitably doesn't show up today or tonight or tomorrow night (if that's what happens), the audience will be confused.
And, if that's what happens, the league will be banking on the audience regarding the sighting of Walt Anderson as the rare arrival of a hummingbird outside the kitchen window. It's there. It's gone. And who knows when of it it ever will be back?
Regardless, the next game starts now. And it's being televised exclusively by NFL Network. If he's ever going to be used, this would be the game for it.