At a time when the NFL has focused on calling only “clear and obvious” fouls, the NFL apparently is also focusing on punishing only “clear and obvious” instances of criticism about the officiating in a given game.
Then again, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy’s criticism of the key offensive pass interference call late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Rams seemed to be both clear and obvious.
“It made me sick when I watched the TV copy,” McCarthy said the day after the game. “I thought Michael [Gallup] ran an excellent route. The [defensive back] attempted to clamp his arm, [Gallup] pulls his arm out and makes a catch. So it’s definitely a call you’d like to see not happen, and I know everybody wants to talk about the time of the game and the way the game was called to that point. But at the end of the day, it was an excellent route and throw and completion by Michael Gallup from Dak.”
That looks like public criticism of officiating. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, McCarthy wasn’t and won’t be fined for his remarks. Likewise, no memo was sent to teams reminding coaches and others to not speak ill of the decisions made and not made by the folks in black and white stripes.
Last October, the league office sent a memo explaining that the rules prohibit “[c]riticism of officiating which includes, but is not limited to, the following: Comments regarding the quality of officiating, individual calls or missed calls, the League’s officiating department, an officiating crew, or an individual game official; [a]ccusing game officials of acting with bias or in any way questioning the integrity of NFL game officials; or [p]osting negative or derogatory/demeaning content pertaining to officiating on social media.”
So McCarthy says (rightfully) that the OPI call on Gallup “made me sick,” and there’s no reaction from the league — even though the league insists that the far-from-clear-and-obvious call was correct.
It could be that, at least for now, the league wants to send a clear and obvious message that the officials are getting the calls right. Issuing a fine to anyone who says otherwise serves only to underscore the error that prompted the criticism in the first place.