Jim Irsay says NFL admits blown calls at end of Browns-Colts

Sunday’s Browns-Colts game ended in controversy due to two dubious calls on the decisive drive. The owner of the Colts, Jim Irsay, has now stated that the league has acknowledged the erroneous penalty flags.

In a Twitter post on Tuesday night, Irsay wrote, “The NFL admits and understands that they did not make the correct calls at the end of Sunday’s Colts/Browns Game. I believe we need to institute Instant Replay for all calls, including Penalties, in the last two minutes of All Games.”

Irsay is referring to an illegal contact foul that nullified a fumble recovery by the Colts, which would have secured a 38-33 victory, and to a subsequent pass interference penalty that gave the Browns a first and goal on the one-yard line. The Browns eventually scored the game-winning touchdown on fourth down.

The first call was a close one. A source from another team noted that far more egregious contact on receivers often goes uncalled, particularly in late-game situations. As for the second call, the pass was clearly uncatchable, landing well beyond the end zone. As one of the writers at PFT remarked on our constant text chain, not even Dwight Clark on a ladder could have caught that ball.

It is uncommon for teams to publicly disclose such admissions from the league. It is unlikely that the NFL’s headquarters at 345 Park Avenue will appreciate Irsay’s transparency.

The bigger question is whether Irsay’s argument will gain any traction. He suggests that all aspects of the game should be subject to review in the final two minutes. In 2019, the NFL allowed pass interference calls and non-calls to be reviewed, which resulted in a debacle due to inconsistent standards regarding what constituted interference.

In this particular case, replay review would have, or at least should have, determined that the pass on which interference was called was uncatchable.

Regardless of how the league addresses the issue moving forward, it is crucial that it be rectified. With the NFL benefiting financially from gambling endorsements, the league has an increased responsibility to minimize officials’ mistakes, especially in critical moments of close games. Attributing errors to human fallibility is no longer sufficient; in today’s environment, such mistakes have implications far beyond the two teams involved.

So, what will the league do? More importantly, will the league take action before a significant scandal arises, prompting external oversight? This could come in the form of civil litigation concerning gambling losses, Congressional intervention (possibly establishing a federal agency responsible for officiating rules and enforcement), or even legal action against those whose actions may be considered intentional and deliberate misconduct.

Change is inevitably on the horizon. The NFL can either wait for circumstances to force their hand, leading to chaotic aftermaths, or proactively take measures to provide teams and bettors with more meaningful explanations than a mere “Shit happens.”


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