|Tom Coughlin is oh-fer on his last eight challenges. (NFL.com)|
By Ryan Wilson
NFL fans are familiar with Bill Leavy. He was the official in Super Bowl XL, often referred to as "that game where the Steelers were gifted the Lombardi Trophy over the Seahawks." After two controversial calls in Sunday's Giants-Packers game, Leavy is back, again for the wrong reasons.
First, there was what appeared to be a Greg Jennings fumble in which he was initially ruled down by contact. The Giants challenged, replays showed that Jennings had in fact fumbled, and all that was left was for Leavy to emerge from under the hood and announce that it was New York's ball. Except that didn't happen. Instead, inexplicably, he declared that "the ruling on the field stands."
(We went into this in great detail in Monday's Pick-6 Podcast, as well if the NFL should go to full-time officials. Spoiler alert: No. Either way, you can listen below.)
On Monday, the league explained Leavy's decision (via PFT).
“Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL Rule Book (page 35) states: ‘An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended: (a) when a runner is contacted by a defensive player and touches the ground with any part of his body other than his hands or feet,’” the league said in a statement emailed to PFT by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. “So by rule, if Jennings’ calf was on the ground prior to the ball coming loose, he is down by contact. Contrary to what was suggested during the game, there is no need for the runner’s knee to be on the ground.”
Uh-huh. We suppose you could look at this replay and say that maybe Jennings' shin (really, the shin?) was down before the ball came out. But you could also argue that Jennings lost possession before his shin contacted the turf.
Jennings sure looked like he fumbled.
In general, we don't like to whinge about the officiating because by the end of the season, it usually evens out for everybody. And credit to New York. Despite two atrocious calls (the other was when Osi Umenyiora was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Aaron Rodgers even though no part of his helmet came close to Rodgers' head), they won by 37-20.
A day later, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin remained confused by the two calls. He was asked Monday if there was anything on film that made the Jennings' non-fumble clearer. “There is but I won’t get into it,’’ he said.
And Umenyiora's roughing-the-passer penalty?
“Aggressive football play,’’ Coughlin said via the New York Post. “The quarterback is following through as he releases the ball. The hit is from the side. There’s not helmet involved. It’s from the shoulders to waist. We’ll coach that one forever.’’
Now all that's left if for Leavy to apologize to the Giants and their fans. That generally takes about four years.
Here's what he told the media in August 2010, unprompted:
"It was a tough thing for me. I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter [of Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seahawsk] and I impacted the game and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better. I know that I did my best at that time, but it wasn't good enough. When we make mistakes, you got to step up and own them. It's something that all officials have to deal with, but unfortunately when you have to deal with it in the Super Bowl it's difficult."
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