Ask the Official: December 31, 2012
by the Ref
Are the officials influenced by player or coaches reactions? Sometimes at the end of a play, no flag is thrown. Then, in what appears to be a reaction to a player or coach complaint, an officials throws a flag. That the flag is the official’s reaction to the player’s complaint, is often supported by the commentators. — John G.
Let me start by saying that officials are human beings and at times they may well be influenced by the comments and complaining of players and coaches, especially some of the less experienced officials. However, the number of times that such events may occur is grossly over-estimated by the announcers and the fans. (More on that later.)
In addition, there are also times that the constant complaining by some teams, such as the “Forty-Whiners” may in fact have an opposite effect on the officials involved.
One of the things that is not recognized by most announcers and fans is that the officials go through a progression in their minds when a foul occurs. Football is one of the few games that allows the official to take his time before throwing a flag.
Secondly, the act of throwing the flag actually takes a finite amount of time, especially when it is a spot foul, and the act of throwing the flag may have begun well before the flag lands on the ground and is seen by the fans and the announcers. (i.e., the official must reach in his pants and pull out the flag, not an easy task sometimes when they are wearing gloves, and then wind up and throw the flag. And the flag then requires some time to arrive at the spot.
As a result, many times the comment that “it was a late flag” is no such thing and the process began many seconds before the flag actually arrives. )
Finally, as I have stated numerous times in this column, there are very few announcers that have a clue regarding the rules, the officiating mechanics, and the manner in which a game is to be officiated in the NFL.
Of the 20+ “color” announcers that work for the 5 networks covering the NFL, I would suggest that less than 5 have any understanding of the rules and how the NFL wants a game to be officiated.
Cris Collinsworth is probably the best with Troy Aikman, Phil Simms, and Brian Billick somewhat behind.
The worst are Mike Mayock, Jon Gruden, and Dan Fouts, along with the team of Gus Johnson and Charles Davis, who should stick to college although they are not too good there either.
Many of the statements that these “experts” make are just plain wrong and/or demonstrate their lack of understanding of how a game should be officiated.
So the bottom line is “yes, the complaining may have some impact, both positive and negative” but most of the time the comment is incorrect and unwarranted.