It’s a Rams-Patriots Super Bowl, and an Officiating Nightmare - Albert Breer, SI.com
The NFL had perhaps the most exciting duo of conference championship games of the Super Bowl era but all the talk Monday was about the blown call that cost the New Orleans Saints a spot in Super Bowl 53.
Here’s how an exchange between referee Bill Vinovich, the head of the crew, and pool reporter Amie Just of NOLA.com went:
Q: What was the reasoning for no penalty flag being thrown on the play involving Drew Brees’ pass attempt to Tommylee Lewis?
BV: It’s a judgment call by the officials. I personally have not seen the play.
Q: You said you didn’t see the play, correct?
OK. This would be easier to swallow if it was 1985. Back then you couldn’t hand Vinovich a phone or an iPad to prepare him for this exchange. You can now, and the reason he was being made available was to answer questions on this particular call, so I have to assume that his not seeing the play before meeting with Just was willful. Either that, or the league folks on hand didn’t properly prepare Vinovich.
So we’re back in another spot where the NFL, in the face of something controversial, was feigning ignorance, and the only explanation is that this was a delay tactic (to afford time for everyone to get their story straight) or just plain dumb by the league. Neither conclusion is great, either from an optics standpoint or for the public’s trust in the NFL to do the right thing.
FMIA: Amazing, crazy games lead to Rams-Patriots Super Bowl – Peter King, ProFootballTalk
There’s already speculation that Sunday’s officiating fiasco - an event fans had feared as the general quality of officiating has declined seemingly year after year - could lead to significant changes.
This is a huge moment for officiating. Will side judge Gary Cavaletto or down judge Patrick Turner, or both, be fired, for missing the most obvious pass interference penalty in playoff history? If the call gets made, it’s conceivable and perhaps likely that the Saints would have made the Super Bowl.
The upshot. As soon as this call got made, I heard from a couple of acquaintances/sources about the impact of it. “Al Riveron [EVP of Officiating] is gone,” one said. “He can’t survive this.” Another said the league will have to pay big to bring back Dean Blandino or Mike Pereira (less likely). I think Riveron was on thin ice before Sunday. What the NFL should do, if it decides to dump Riveron, is pay realistic money to get Blandino back from his cushy gig at FOX. He’s a trusted and trustworthy guy.
Expand replay. Don’t expand the number of challenges a coach can have during a game. Just allow him to challenge a terrible call that he currently cannot challenge.
Rams pass interference: NFL Rule 17 could force Saints do-over - Dan Gartland, SI.com
Some are even calling for the results of the Saints - Rams game to be overturned, or perhaps the final moments replayed. It’s highly unlikely that would happen but we learned Monday those options are indeed available to Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game,” Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1 states.
Article 3 of the same rule gives the commissioner the authority to reverse the result of the game and order it be played again “either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.”
If Goodell weren’t the spineless chump we already know him to be, he could throw a flag all the way from Park Avenue, award the Saints a first down at the spot of the Robey-Coleman interference and summon both teams back onto the field in New Orleans to decide fair and square who gets to go to the Super Bowl.
Mailbag: Kellen Moore’s Future? - Rob Phillips and Bryan Broaddus, DallasCowboys.com
Over at the Mothership the good folks address questions about the possibility of Jon Kitna and Kellen Moore taking over QB coach and offensive coordinator responsibilities in a mailbag piece.
Question: I want to know what you think of the possibility of Kellen Moore taking over as offensive coordinator and Jon Kitna being the quarterback coach? I don't know why we don't go after some of the proven coaches on some of the teams that have the innovative offenses in the league.
Bryan: Those proven coaches are really not proven at this point. Know the Rams and Chiefs have some guys but probably a year away from college plays. Feeling is that Moore will have the title but Garrett will call the plays, so that takes care of experience.
Rob: As you said, these are only possibilities right now. Nothing’s official, and the Cowboys have been discussing a lot of options since parting ways with Scott Linehan. But, since bright young offensive minds are all the rage around the league, it must be noted that the Cowboys believe Moore is just that. Dak Prescott has called him a “genius” behind the scenes. If Moore were to wind up with the OC title, or a ‘passing game coordinator’ type of title, it wouldn’t surprise me if head coach Jason Garrett has more influence on the play-calling given his own experience in that area. We’ll see.
CBS's Tony Romo had the perfect broadcast during Patriots-Chiefs - Jimmy Traina, SI.com
While fans can debate about the winners and losers of Sunday’s games, everyone seems in agreement that Tony Romo put on a spectacular performance, repeatedly predicting where the ball would go on key plays. It was a return to the 2017 Romostradamus many of us had missed throughout the season.
The muzzle came off and it was beautiful. Actually, it was epic, but that word is so overused it has little impact anymore, but make no mistake about it: What Tony Romo did Sunday night was epic.
After pulling waaaaay back this season on predicting plays (thanks, CBS executives!), Romo's calling card last year in his sensational debut season as CBS’s No. 1 analyst, the former Cowboys quarterback threw caution to the wind Sunday and went nuts with the predictions during the Patriots' overtime win against the Chiefs. This was the Romo we fell in love with last year and were yearning for this season.
But Romo didn’t just predict the plays. He CORRECTLY predicted plays. His predictions became reality every single time. He’d look at the defense and within seconds tell us, in great detail, what the offense would do.
Confirmed: Just called Tony Romo to see where I’m going to play next year. #YoureAWizardTony— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) January 21, 2019
3 defensive players the Cowboys should target in free agency, including a safety not named Earl Thomas - John Owning, SportsDay
Owning looks at three potential defensive players the Cowboys could target in the off-season with his usual deep film dive.
While Thomas is an excellent safety, he's not without his warts. Thomas doesn't have the position flexibility that Dallas typically covets on defense, as he would likely struggle if forced to play in the box consistently. Moreover, Thomas will miss his fair share of tackles as well, missing at least 10 tackles in every season but two (excluding 2018), per Pro Football Focus.
On top of that, Thomas brings considerable injury concerns to the table, as he's finished two of the last three seasons on injured reserve with leg injuries.
If the Cowboys are going to spend the money required to sign Thomas - anyone believing Thomas will take a large hometown discount is foolish - they are going to have to come to grips with Thomas' injury history while having the confidence that it won't continue in the future.
Find a coordinator, sign DeMarcus Lawrence, and more – Calvin Watkins, The Athletic
Watkins has an expansive piece where he speculates about the Cowboys’ off-season priorities.
The Cowboys’ most immediate priority is finding a creative offensive coordinator who can bring out the best out in quarterback Dak Prescott, as well as keep Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott playing at an elite level. Linehan’s issues stemmed from an inability to get the Cowboys into the end zone on a consistent basis (48 percent conversation rate on red-zone opportunities), a lack of offensive creativity and Prescott’s apparent lack of development. Prescott isn’t as bad as many fans think; he was sacked a career-high 56 times but set career highs in yardage and completions. He also threw only eight interceptions and 22 touchdowns. But the Cowboys didn’t use him enough on zone reads or on plays outside the pocket, where he causes significant problems for defenses.
The new offensive coordinator has to push Prescott, a willing learner, to another level. He also must find other ways for Cooper to get open. After producing 40 catches for 642 yards with six touchdowns in the first six games since the trade, defenses clamped down on the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver. In the last four regular-season games, Cooper caught just one touchdown pass and had 222 receiving yards. The 24-year-old was an excellent target on third downs, but when defenses dropped a safety to bracket him with a corner, nobody else consistently stepped up. The blame rests on Linehan. The Cowboys have to find a creative mind who will ensure Cooper can make plays regardless of the coverage and Prescott excels in his fourth season as the starter. Easy, right?
3 things to know about new QB coach Jon Kitna, including his familiarity with the Cowboys' organization - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Jon Kitna would bring several attributes to the QB coach position Kellen Moore did not.
Popular knocks this season on first-year QB coach Kellen Moore were that he didn't play much during his NFL career and he didn't have any coaching experience. The belief from some critics was that a young quarterback such as Dak Prescott needed a seasoned veteran coaching his position.
A back injury forced Kitna to retire in 2012, but he briefly rejoined the Cowboys at the end of the 2013 season to serve as Kyle Orton's backup after Tony Romo suffered a back injury.
Kitna finished his NFL career with 29,745 passing yards, 169 touchdowns, 165 interceptions and a 77.4 passer rating.