Tim Benz: Dear NFL officials, you stink. Be brave. Do better. | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: Dear NFL officials, you stink. Be brave. Do better.

Tim Benz
Detroit Lions defensive back Tracy Walker, bottom, and defensive back Tavon Wilson break up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis.
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia looks onto the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay won 23-22.

Dear NFL officials,

This is Tracy Walker. He plays for the Detroit Lions. He was trying to intercept a ball on this play Monday night against the Green Bay Packers.

This isn’t a penalty.

That’s not a blow to the head. That’s a collision between two guys going for the ball. That can happen between two basketball players going for a deflected pass. That can happen to two outfielders chasing a fly ball. That can happen to two hockey players when the puck changes direction.

Collisions happen in team sports.

You can flag an attempt at a tackle where a defender launches himself into the head of an opponent. You can call a foul when a player targets the head of another player.

Contrary to what is common sense, you can even flag an accidental head-shot when a player is attempting to make a legal tackle and inadvertently makes head contact with a receiver who is moving his strike zone.

None of that happened here.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that. But you are cowards. And you are afraid to keep your flag in your pockets when you hear a noise. Noises happen when helmets strike one another and when pads collide.

That may happen when two players go for the ball at the same time. And that’s what happened on this play. That’s it.

Two guys went for the ball at the same time. And you flagged the defender because the play resulted in a loud noise.

Basically, you NFL refs are golden retrievers in a loud thunderstorm. You hear a noise. And you drop a flag. Without thinking. Without using your eyes.

Strike that.

You’re actually Pavlov’s dogs. You hear a noise, and you start to salivate. You can’t wait to throw your flags so you can show your bosses in the NFL office how much you have paid attention to all the videos you saw about enforcing player safety.

Your ears hear the crack of two helmets colliding. So you drop the flag and then look toward New York and start panting, “Did I do good?”

Then you expect a Beggin’ Strip.

The problem is that your job is to use your eyes — or your heads — and you guys don’t do that anymore.

You just hear a sound. Listen to the crowd reaction, hear a few “ooohs and ahhhs” and drop the hanky because, well, why not?

Because you’ll never get in trouble for throwing a flag for head contact that shouldn’t be called. However, you might get in trouble — big trouble — if you miss a call that should’ve gotten a flag.

I get it. Err on the side of caution. But that doesn’t mean err all the time.

Your jobs are hard. The rules are too much. The pressure to call penalties is too great. The scrutiny of replay is oppressive. I get all that. And I have sympathy.

But you need to take the game back. Some of this is on you, too. There are rules. There are expectations. But there is also responsibility. And, as an industry, you guys have lost your way.

Stop making excuses. You have difficult responsibilities. No doubt. But you need to execute them better.

And that call last night is as bad as I have seen.

I’ve seen blown calls worse than that. Sure. The New Orleans Saints versus the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game last season leaps to mind.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a call as gutless as this one.

That was cowardly. That was, “I have no idea what just happened. But I think it looked bad so I’m going to flag it so I don’t get in trouble.”

Gutless is way worse than wrong.


Someone who doesn’t care about the Lions or Packers at all, had no money on the game and wishes they had been watching the baseball playoff instead.

P.S., You blew those hands to the face calls Monday night too.

You guys really stink at what you do.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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