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National Football Litigation – The Foundations of the Game in Question.

By Euan De Ste Croix (@Dissy89)

The NFL, supposedly stands for the National Football League. A complex sport which relies on its custodians in the black and white stripes for the integrity of its game to be upheld. But the 2019 season has seen many question their role. Their credibility, is the subject of much debate, particularly on the newly introduced pass interference rule, where the play has become challengeable. After 13 weeks of the season, it would seem, it’s not worth a head coach throwing the red flag, if they are not in agreement with the call in the field.

We’ve seen multiple instances of pass interference calls being missed by the officials, none more so than a recent game between the Texans and the Ravens. Wide receiver Deandre Hopkins tangles with Marlon Humphrey, who clearly pulls at his jersey, wraps his arms around him then pushes Hopkin’s right arm away. His forward movement and ability to catch the ball is clearly inhibited. A typical indicator for ref’s when making such calls, did the defensive play make an attempt to play the ball? There was none, only a tackle on a player when the ball was in the air – a foul. The play was then challenged but upheld, as it didn’t meet the supposed criteria for reversal. A flummoxing decision for many, just adding to a long list of plays to this point in the season.

Image result for deandre hopkins ravens pass interference
Image Credit: Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports

After watching these questionable calls back, the question has to be raised: how can a qualified referee watch it back, on an HD monitor, across multiple angles and not over turn it?

What will stick in the throats of football purists, never mind Texans fans, if there was a change in the rule to allow coaches to challenge, then why have the officiating crews dismissed all but a few challenges? Lead by a league office memo but if the origin of the rule amendment was to correct errors in judgements, then why not use it? A failing was recognised or was seen to be recognised but the remedy offered, is not utilised. That premise is illogical on so many levels.

This melee of confusion originated from the New Orleans NFC Championship game and with the benefit of hindsight, the NFL’s competition committee will perhaps have wished they hadn’t opened this door. If we put to one side, that if the Saints had ran the ball three times, they would have taken time off the clock then this isn’t likely borne into the monster it has created.

Fast forward 9 months, and the game is no better off. The Texans should have had the ball on the 1-yard line, with the score at 0-0. These games are decided by momentum swings and that was handed to Baltimore with this error. It didn’t definitively seal a result as clearly as the decision that benefited the Rams, in handing them a Superbowl ticket, that they just merely needed to stamp. But the Hopkins non-call, certainly put a game early on a path that, by the definition of the rules, shouldn’t have happened. As many will testify, its not for the first time have the powers that be, have entangled themselves in a self-created officiating muddle.

The League head office has a track record of making rule changes based on a watershed moments, leading to mass confusion and frustration. There have been recent seasons where the the definition of something as rudimentary as a catch has been called into question. This plagued games every weekend for a season and then the it appeared that common sense prevailed and the ref’s understanding was rectified. Though, it may be worth noting, the change appeared to occur pre-Superbowl which benefited the Eagles in keeping a score on the board, despite almost identical plays being ruled as incomplete just weeks prior. Perhaps many were blindly delighted that a resolution was sought, but the timing of the change had to be called into question. 

There was also a time where the roughing the passer, the result a 15-yard penalty, was having an unhealthy bearing on games. This despite edge rushers adjusting their technique to avoid the outlined, bearing weight down on the passer when coming into contact with the ground. It again reared its head in the Green Bay, Carolina game where the offence was handed an extension of their drive for no discernible reason. This then plays a significant enough role to outweigh the talent on the field, in post game talking points.

Image result for green bay carolina roughing passer
Image Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Often used as a possible correction to the current crisis, is the addition of a sky judge. The judge would form part of the game day officiating crew, sit in the stand and be used as the video referee, which has been successful in rugby. It would make sense, and could be done with limited changes, bar hiring additional person per crew to take up the role. Could this be done mid-season? It could, of course, but likely won’t change until next season where the ability to challenge pass interference will disappear. But based on recent history, the next dumbfounding rule change is just around the corner for the 2020 season.

For those that truly care about sport and the integrity of it, perhaps an older school of through, could rightly say the Exec’s in Park Avenue, Manhattan have taken their eye off the ball. Or have they?

The intrigue of the NFL is based upon, the unrivalled athleticism of players and skill exhibited, in the midst of executing a highly strategic and tactical game plan, for a said team to win. Now the league head office in it’s infinite wisdom, have grown the value of the sport and are experts in monetising the game.

Potential consumers are changing the way the core product is being consumed and on that front, it’s difficult to argue with their approach, as accessibility of the league is at an all time high. All would seem well, but if you lift the lid even slightly on the most profitable sporting organisation, it would seem there are some worrisome trends occurring and could risk long term cash-flow projections, if they are not considered in their approach.

As the league are acutely aware of the diminishing quality of its product since the agreement of the flawed CBA with the players union. Mid-tier veteran, players have barriers to trade based on ‘Salary-cap-enomics’ and the overall level of play in the field is reduced, as they are replaced, by less talented but cheaper players.

The central theme is one of erosion, there are too many teams, that cannot under current circumstances pay enough good players, to fill out a quality roster, to then in turn fill their stadiums. Many teams have sections of their stadium they don’t even open as they know they won’t sell the tickets and risk a black-out of local television coverage. So this is a huge issue the league faces, but its one they’ve masterfully papered over the cracks with fantasy football and fan-facing analytics, for the time being. But could there be another subtle, but strategic ploy to mitigate the game’s not so obvious plight?

There could be an intriguing argument made that a multi-billion dollar entertainment company actually enjoys the bi-product of terrible officiating. As in reality, it its adds to the circus of media clamber, a rotating news cycle that evokes engagement and reaction across the globe.

On the face of it, it may seems an ill-logical hypothesis but the more its considered, perhaps its the case. Why would you agree a new contract, just this season, for further seasons of part-time officials? Why would you pay them so poorly? As the best talent have taken up cushy numbers at television networks. The good referee’s have left their positions in their droves over the last few seasons, but they were allowed to.

Again, this wouldn’t seem a logical approach to not retain those that are vital for the money to keep rolling in for the owners and its surrounding parallel industries. But the modern mindset of people have the first inclination to exhibit their reaction outwardly, on public platforms. Can they see means to further profit, in designed anarchy?

As remember – it’s not their fault, its the ref’s. They must be the only league employee’s that the corporation distances themselves when the court of public option swing in an unfavourable manner.

The basic rules of engagement of public relations – deflect, deflect and then deflect some more. So all things considered, perhaps this is by design rather than gross oversight. Whichever way, it’s a chronic situation which continues to detract from anyone’s enjoyment watching every team, every Sunday. But maybe consider Goddell & co don’t care about your feelings. They want your money, end of story. 

Until such issues are eradicated and the “Shield” find means of speeding the game up and removing mass confusion on what should be straightforward refereeing decisions, the detractors will continue. As is stands, they would be correct in referring to the top-tier of America’s most popular sports as National Football Litigation and it seems those in charge, like it that way. 

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A wild Wildcard Weekend

Some fantastic Wildcard games from the weekend and we have fantastic coverage.
Tim and Lee update the Head Coaching vacancies before they recap all the games including whether Houston should consider firing Bill O’Brien and some words for Baltimore fans calling for Flacco.
Roger breaks down some of the plays that were under the microscope and had us all searching the rulebooks (36:56).
Chris and Adam from 5yardrush join us in the first ever Full10Questions duo contestants. Can they top the leaderboard on a joint effort (59:27)?
We finish off with Tim and Lee looking at the Superbowl picture and a handy hint of betting advice on betting on it and confirming the winners of our Full10Yards awards from last week which we put to the Twitter vote(1:06:09)!
Shout out to Chris Carpenter, whose intro wins our December competition.
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Week 17,Quizzes, Playoffs and Ref Watch

Happy New Year!
Tim, Lee and Roger Goodgroves recap all the Week 17 shenanigans including a look at all the current vacant head coaching positions.
We all take part in the Full10Questions (some questions harder than others…) before taking a view on the playoffs!
Dont forget to go to and enter our playoff predictor competition and your chance to win an Amari Cooper jersey!
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Podcast 68 – Week 16 best bets and officiating review

3rd podcast of the week sees Tim and Adam give you their best bets for Week 16 but also a special guest Roger Goodgroves comes on to talk all things officials.
We talk about the main points of emphasis coming in to the season and what effect that has had and also some specific plays and why they were called as they were. Roger also offers us up a solution to some of the poor officiating we have seen so far!

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Podcast 26 – Britball Week Part 3 – Behind the scenes

Roger Goodgroves joins us to take a peek behind the curtain in the British American Football game.

Having perhaps the smoothest voice I have ever heard , we talk about his experiences as an official and what it takes to become an official here. What groups try and support the game and how we can support them.
He also gives us an insight into the Britball scene over the past few decades and the major changes it has seen. He can be found on social media @rogergoodgroves. We will be getting Roger on over the course of the season to break down some big officiating calls too!
Next stop, Manchester!

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My First UK American Football Experience

Thought I would write this as it’s still fresh in the memory.
Travelled down the m8 for 45 minutes, went past Hampden Park, the home of Scottish Football (busy for the Ed Sheeran Concert which is on apparently tonight, ironic) and just south of Glasgow to a place called Merrylee, the home of the East Kilbride Pirates.
Going in, I didn’t really know what to expect about the whole experience.
Crowd size, slickness of the operation, officiating and quality of play were all things I pondered as I made my way down the motorway.
I got there as the teams finished warming up and sat down in the only stand. There were a good 50-60 people in attendance, separate from the teams and officials.
I started tweeting (can be found on my account @full10yards) and found myself covering the first few drives of each team, with some live streaming of some of the big plays in the 1st quarter. I managed to capture an endzone interception along with a touchdown. Great timing, you could say. I found a new friend in the Manchester Titans Twitter account, who retweeted pretty much everything I did (appreciate the exposure!).
The 1st quarter was very competitive and I was very impressed by the competitiveness of the two teams. The stands were also starting to fill up too, with easily over 100 people now in attendance.
A couple of things that stuck out to me whilst watching the game;
-The officiating was very sound and did not take over the game. The players were respectful of the officiating and there was nothing in the way of confrontation, challenging of calls or ball placements and it was just played in a great spirit.
-Sidelines of both teams hold up boards (or bits of paper with emojis) to signify the play call, which made me smile. A lot of hand signals and motions to add context to their play calls and the teams were well drilled and seemed to have their playbooks drilled in to their heads.
-The gameflow/operations of the offences and defences are just exactly what you would expect from the game in the USA, with motions, shovel passes and hard counts to fool the defence in to drawing offside flags.
-I did not see anything which pertained to the time of the game or play clock type system  or how long was left in the quarter. I couldn’t tell at what point in the game we were and how long was left. The referee’s whistles were easily identifiable for the end of the quarter and the 2 minute warning. Maybe I missed this and hopefully if anyone reading this knows, please get in touch!. The announcer over the PA system who was calling the game also did a great job of keeping everyone in attendance informed.
-Both teams played in a great spirit; hard but fair. The tackling was actually pretty well executed and you certainly earned the yards on offence. The players were not built like machines and I even thought to myself that I could probably slot in somewhere in a team if I was willing to put in the requisite time and effort.
-No field goals were attempted in the game and it was quite common to go for it on 4th down. Not sure if this is commonplace in the BAFA game or whether there was a reason why this particular game had no attempts. The PATs where fine (4 from 5) so whether it’s just the way our game is, then that’s fine.
As the game drew to a close and the scoreline got a bit out of hand (bit flattering if you asked me, but there was a clear winner on the day), I was engrossed in the game and kind of fell in love with American Football all over again. It was also nice to be spotted by a fan who said “you’re that full10yards guy!”, something that I could get used to.
Like soccer, all players shook hands at the end of the game, showing the great spirit that this game was played in, despite the blowout result at the end.
The Manchester Titans deserved their win, perhaps not by 41 points though as a few plays here or there going the Pirates way would have seen a classic. The Titans were much more effective in their execution, more imaginative on offence and had a few more tricks up their sleeve whilst the Pirates were a bit more predictable and static in their play calling.
I will definitely be going to more games now that I have a taste for it and loved every second of it. I felt like I was in a time warp and that time had stopped and that I was firmly in the American Football bubble and I loved it (may have been a play clock thing too but I literally had no concept of time).
I am now off to go and get some merchandise but thanks for reading and if you, like me had never been to a local game of American Football and are unsure whether to go…GO!!! You’ll be supporting grassroots and helping to make the game better.
Hopefully if anyone from the game is reading this and want to come on the podcast to talk about the game and British American Football in general, please get in touch!!!