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Dean Blandino: Picking up flag was 'debatable'

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NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino admitted Monday that picking up a flag after officials called pass interference in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Lions-Cowboys game was "debatable." He would have preferred that the crew stuck with its initial call and admitted they missed a defensive holding call to boot.

In an interview with Around The NFL, Blandino stressed that the decision was a "judgment call."

"I think it's debatable," Blandino said. "There was a left hand on (Brandon Pettigrew's) shoulder, but does that significantly hinder the receiver's ability to make the catch? Looking at all the angles, we're not convinced it is or it isn't. I think had the flag not been thrown, I think we still would have debated it."

"I certainly could have supported it if they left the flag down. I would have supported the foul. But I think it's a close judgment call where you have two officials with differing opinions on it."

In the end, Blandino believes the crew should have stuck with its initial call.

"I'd prefer that they kept it down, having the flag down," Blandino said. "But like I said it's a tight judgment call that could have went either way."

Speaking on NFL Network's The Aftermath, Blandino also admitted that defensive holding should have been called on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens before any pass interference penalty. In short: The Lions should have had a first down one way or another.

Blandino agrees that the head linesman had a better angle on the play, but the back judge could have stuck with his original penalty call.

"When you have two officials like that, both with different perspectives, they get together, they talk about it," Blandino said. "Ultimately the back judge, if he felt it was a foul, he could have stayed with his call, and he didn't. That's kind of why the flag was picked up."

Blandino also said that the mechanics of the entire crew was a problem. He wants his crew to be sure about making its call before announcing anything. Referee Pete Morelli initially announced the pass interference penalty before the crew changed its call. Lions players were "baffled" by the change. 

"Mechanically, I think it could have been handled much better," Blandino said. "You don't see it often that a penalty's announced and then that much later, the flag is picked up. I thought from a mechanics standpoint, it should've been handled a little bit better where, just hold off on the announcement, get together, make sure we've got all the information, and then just make one announcement."

"Certainly making the announcement that there's a penalty, and then changing the call after the fact creates some issues that we could have avoided."

Blandino clarified that Morelli did announce the picked-up flag at the stadium, but it wasn't heard on the broadcast. Either way, there was confusion on why the flag was picked up that could have been improved.

Blandino also said that he would have supported a penalty on Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, who came off the sideline to argue the call.

"It's not an automatic penalty," Blandino noted. "It's the officials' discretion whether they felt that he was out on the field confronting them in an unsportsmanlike way. In that situation, the officials had some discretion and they felt that it didn't warrant a penalty. They just moved him back onto the sideline. If they had flagged him, I'd support it, but it's not an automatic."

Bryant's actions can be reviewed for a possible fine. Blandino also plans to follow up with all of his playoff crews on improving their communication.

"Certainly the mechanics of the announcement and the communication, that's something that we'll focus on and we'll focus on that with all of our officials who are going to work throughout the playoffs so we can avoid this type of situation going forward," he said.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 17 game and debates the MVP race between Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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