(SportsNetwork.com) - Overtime in the NFL should be compelling theater, but bad
policy often spawns unintended consequences.
Don't blame the New York Jets for what happened in North Jersey on Sunday.
Winning in the NFL is hard, so when umpire Tony Michalek or any other official
gift wraps a victory and dumps it in your lap, you say thank you very much and
in this particular case, boot the 42-yard field goal before you go about your
By the letter of the law, the officials got it right when they flagged New
England's Chris Jones for pushing one of his own teammates from behind during
a potential game-winning, 56-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk in the extra
frame of the Jets' eventual 30-27 victory over the New England Patriots.
Folk pulled the monster try wide to the left, but was given a rather sizeable
mulligan when Jones was spied pushing and therefore flagged for
unsportsmanlike conduct, a miscue that moved the ball inside the Pats' 25-yard
line and all but sealed the outcome as Folk was indeed true on the re-do to
complete New York's rousing comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit.
"The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the
formation," referee Jerome Boger told pool reporter Mike Reiss after the game.
"That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into
the opponents' formation."
The arcane regulation is brand new for the 2013 season and labeled as Rule
913: "Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the
Like most new rules these days, it was adopted in the name of player safety and
had never been called before Sunday, according to Mike Pereira, the former
vice president of officiating for the NFL before he departed for television
and took over as the rules analyst at FOX Sports.
The fact that the networks actually feel they need rules analysts should tell
you all you need to know about what is now a mind-numbing, over-legislated
Think about it.
You never see rules czars in other major professional sports during national
television broadcasts for a simple reason -- they aren't needed because the
regulations are pretty straight forward.
That said, we are not talking life and death consequences here and it would be
nice if the NFL or its officials could use a little judgment steeped in
Over in baseball, former American League President Lee MacPhail once coined the
phrase "spirit of the restriction" to overturn an obvious injustice in the
famous George Brett pine tar game. Meanwhile, hockey officials are often
vilified or championed depending on your point of view for their habit of
"swallowing the whistle" in the third period of key games.
The thought process behind that kind of thinking is sound: the players
should be the ones deciding the games, not middle-aged men in striped
Jets fans are thrilled they got the early Christmas gift and they should be,
just like Pats backers hung on to the pedantic NFL rule book like a life
raft during the Tom Brady tuck fiasco.
But if you don't have any skin in the game, you understand this is an awful
way to be deciding football games.
The "spirit" of this stupid rule understands Jones had no intent to injure
anyone and his violation had absolutely no adverse affect on Folk's misfire
from 56 yards.
You can play hardliner all you want and say Jones should know and understand
the rule, but his coach, perhaps the best in all of football, didn't.
Bill Belichick believed that the push was only illegal if it came from a
player on the second level of the defense, but Boger confirmed that isn't the
"Any push. It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with
the body into his teammate, into the formation. It's any type of pushing
action," Boger stated.
To his credit, Jones stood up and took the blame for the costly penalty when
speaking with reporters after the game.
"It was something we talked about in camp and it just skipped out of my mind,"
Jones said. "It was my mistake and nobody else's. I just have to man up to it
and fix it next time. I was just trying to get that extra little umph in the
middle, to get up there."
The fact this rule skipped out of Jones' mind is hardly earth-shattering news.
Do you really think if our own Congressional representatives don't have the
time to read life-altering legislation, a 23-year-old backup defensive tackle
is going to digest the NFL's rule book and come out on the other side in a
state of clarity?
The evolution of this latest stain on the game was planted last week when
examples of this very infraction were put on the officials weekly training
tape to point out instances where it was not called but should have been.
Boger, last year's Super Bowl referee, and Michalek, his umpire, were
undoubtedly trying to curry more favor with Dean Blandino, the current head of
And maybe they will get the gold star from Blandino this week, but the rest of
us got cheated.
Geno Smith didn't decide Sunday's game and neither did Tom Brady, Rob
Gronkowski or even Folk.
A 58-year-old underwriter for Allstate Insurance and his staff did.
Those damn unintended consequences.
The Sports Network