- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to see NFL officials provide more discretion and transparency
- Jones made those comments after officials called 28 penalties in the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving loss to the Las Vegas Raiders
- Jones is likely going to need to keep waiting for an overhauled officiating system
You might not like our sense of humor, but we need something to laugh about after the penalty-filled outing we sat through on Thursday, Nov. 25. Officials threw a staggering 28 flags, 14 for each team, in the Las Vegas Raiders’ 36-33 overtime victory over the Cowboys. As Dallas prepared to leave a frustrating November behind, Jones had plenty to say — while also doing his best to say nothing at all — about the litany of laundry that littered his home field.
Jerry Jones wants to see NFL officials provide more transparency and discretion
Officially, it’s not wise for coaches, players, or anyone else affiliated with the NFL to criticize the officials, especially not if they care about their bank account.
According to ProFootballTalk, Jones trod carefully when he discussed the Thanksgiving Day officiating following the loss. He criticized what he called “throw up ball,” a colorful term which referred to “just throwing the ball up and getting the penalties to get you big plays” via pass interference.
However, the Cowboys’ longtime owner tried making it clear that he wasn’t criticizing the officiating crew or even the NFL’s rulebook. Instead, he wants to see more discretion going forward in how officials call games.
“Everybody knows you can call a penalty on every play many different ways, every time the ball snapped. And so you have to have a feel for what you’re trying to do in the ball game, and this one turned out that way.”Jerry Jones
As of publication, the NFL hadn’t yet fined Jones, so it appears the league doesn’t mind his complaints too much. When one has been around the league as long as Jones has, one knows what to say and when to stop just short of making their next point.
Unfortunately for Jones, the NFL appears reluctant to overhaul its officiating process
First off, Jones isn’t the only one who has taken issue with the NFL’s pass interference rules. Unlike college football, where a PI flag always goes for 15-yards, the NFL places the ball at the spot of the foul. In theory, a team can be penalized 40 yards on a single play, taking a ball from near-midfield to the goal line, all because of judgment.
Jones should trust us when we say he’s almost certainly not getting increased discretion or transparency anytime soon. The NFL has been extremely reluctant to overhaul and modernize the officiating process. Just look at the oft-criticized taunting policy if you don’t believe us.
Understandably, the NFL wants to do whatever it can to protect its officials where it can. But when a game features nearly 30 penalties and 266 yards of lost field position, maybe it’s time for the league to look into how they can provide more discretion where possible.
In its most recent attempt at transparency, the NFL tweets weekly videos of Perry Fewell, a longtime defensive coordinator who is now the league’s Senior Vice President of Officiating, walking fans through penalties and trying to explain why a flag was thrown. The head referee also meets with a pool reporter after each game.
Are those tries at clarification enough in 2021? Probably not. Some calls are more subjective than others, especially holding, but other plays — pass interference, the targeting foul — are easily determined on replay. When the NFL tried reviewing pass interference, the league found it to be so difficult that they scrapped it after a season.
The longer the NFL waits to change, the more vocal that critics are going to get
Everyone on social media has different ways to fix — or at least, modernize — the NFL’s officiating. ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio has repeatedly suggested the league make all officials full-time employees. As of November 2021, all officials are part-time employees who have other jobs. Longtime NFL official Walt Anderson was a longtime dentist but retired in 2009 after being promoted to referee.
Former New Orleans Saints receiver Lance Moore recently tweeted the league needs to add a sky judge. The proposed idea would feature a crew member who sits upstairs and uses video footage to correct or call penalties on the field. If a pass interference flag is incorrectly thrown and spotted by the sky judge, the call could then be reversed.
“The goal should be to get things right the first time, not make excuses and/apologies after the fact,” Moore tweeted.
As of publication, the NFL has no plans of adding a sky judge. Considering the league’s devotion to protecting the shield, we’re still not sure why it is so hesitant to create the position if it means properly-officiated games.
Every game is going to include an incorrect call, but if any call is going to be wrong, wouldn’t the league rather it be a subjective holding call rather than a pass interference call that leads to a touchdown on the next play? That we’re still asking this question as we approach 2022 tells us all that we need to know.