No, another official’s not the answer
The educational benefits of the Rams-Saints fiasco just keep rolling in.
For instance, before Thursday, when it came to the word “mandamus,” I would have guessed it was some species of Siberian yak or perhaps an odd variation of one of those ancient 15-foot musical horns played mostly in the upper Alps.
Alas, it turns out to be a legal instrument, as in the always tricky writ of mandamus, and, of course, it was more bad news for the New Orleans Saints.
Best I could tell two Saints season-ticket holders somehow sneaked into a federal courtroom asking a federal judge to wield her writ of mandamus — “an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfil their official duties or correct an abuse” — against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. By all accounts it would have forced him to whip out his version of an off-brand mandamus to force the replaying of the Saints-Rams game.
Shockingly, the request was turned down by the judge, who said it didn’t apply in this case and, no, she does not live in the Los Angeles area.
This came just a day after Goodell failed to placate Saints fans in his long-awaited State of the NFL news conference.
It came after 10 days of defiant silence from the league in Affair d’ No-call and Goodell didn’t say much more while his lips were publicly moving than when he was holed up in the NFL bunker all that time.
I’m not sure what Saints fans expected Goodell to say. Maybe he could have gone all Jimmy Swaggert on the podium with a tearful I-have-sinned speech to beg the Saints’ forgiveness.
That didn’t happen either.
About the best Goodell could come up with was that he felt Saints fans’ pain and admired their passion.
“We understand the frustration that they feel right now,” he said. “We certainly want to address that. Whenever officiating is part of any kind of discussion postgame, it’s never a good outcome.”
And, no, he said, he never considered invoking his own writ of mandamus — Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1 — to make them play the game over or just reverse the outcome.
The gist of that explanation was that just because a bunch of drunk fans get really ticked off about the worst missed call in NFL history is not grounds for a mulligan.
So it would appear the bogus Rams-Patriots Super Bowl will go on as planned. The Saints will sit home and maybe watch Netflix with head coach Sean Payton, which thus far is how he has dealt with his own grief along with copious amounts of ice cream.
The NFL will march on in the hopes that this sort of unpleasantness never happens again.
Good luck with that.
But it was at this point Goodell did make a little sense when he talked about “unintended consequences” in the quest for perfectly officiated football games.
He kept reminding one and all that “humans” are involved and he rejected the notion that robots would ever replace the human zebras on the field.
In the past the NFL has dug itself many deeper holes with knee-jerk reactions to isolated incidents that bring those unintended consequences into play.
The biggest upset is that it was a lack of a flag that has ignited the biggest officiating controversy in league history.
NFL game officials are well-versed in deciding a game’s outcome — it’s just astounding that this brouhaha came from the lack of a flag.
Yeah, the Saints got robbed.
But the last thing NFL officials need — the mother of all unintended consequences — is a mandate to throw even more flags.
Goodell was even asked if this was proof that perhaps they needed to add an eighth official on the field.
Oh, please, for the love of mercy, no, no, no.
The play in question had two officials in perfect position, with eyes wide open, to make the proper call, with at least two others who at least caught a glimpse of something that couldn’t have looked right. They were hand-picked for the chore.
If those two could blow it, a third or fourth or fifth wouldn’t have done much good.
The play wasn’t reviewable — and judgment calls shouldn’t be — but there was a simple solution: nothing in the rules prohibits the officials from gathering for a quick pow wow as to what they all saw. They had the power to correct the oversight.
It happens all the time. Just as flags get picked up all the time.
Goodell seemed to be deferring all questions to the league’s competition committee, of which Payton is member.
All eyes will shift toward him when discussion starts about any possible expansion of instant replay reviews for judgment calls.
Hopefully they practice restraint.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org