Goodell: ‘Our Officials are Human’
ATLANTA (973espn.com) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally went on the record Wednesday by refusing to play into laughable executive-power cries or criticisms that somehow Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams is tainted.
Speaking at his annual Super Bowl State of the NFL address Goodell strongly beat back those claiming he had the power to erase the result of the NFC Championship Game or order some kind of do-over in the wake a late missed call when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman made an early, helmet-to-helmet hit on New Orleans receiver Tommylee Lewis, a domino that likely would have sent the Saints to Atlanta.
"We are proud to have the Patriots and Rams here," Goodell said. "We understand the disappointment of the Saints organization and fans."
Goodell, meanwhile, said he "absolutely did not" consider using his power to somehow overrule a non-call. Multiple media outlets pointed out Rule 17 which allows Goodell to investigate an on-field "calamity" that unfairly turned a game and perhaps order the teams to replay part or all of it if he sees fit.
An NFL source confirmed to 973espn.com that rule is designed to protect outcomes from far more extraordinary circumstances, things like natural disaster or perhaps a fan or fans running on the field and impacting plays not a simply officiating error.
"We understand the frustration they feel," Goodell said. "Whenever the officiating is part of a discussion, it’s not a good thing. But we also know our officials are human."
As far as correcting things for the future Goodell insisted all avenues are on the table but the human element will always be part of the same, stressing that's the case with the players and coaches as well as the referees.
"We will look again at instant replay,” he said. “There have been a variety of proposals about should replay be expanded. The other complication is that it was a no call, and coaches and clubs have been very resistant about having a replay official throw a flag when there’s no flag.”
One idea Goodell is not in favor of is an added official.
“I don’t think adding an official is an answer,” he explained. “We have evaluated an eighth official for many years, so we will explore that. Adding an eighth official is one more human who will make mistakes like the rest of us.”
Multiple lawsuits against the league have already been filed in New Orleans and Gladstone Jones, a New Orleans-based lawyer for the NFL, appeared in federal court Monday to concede the officiating mistake but argue that Rule 17 does not apply to judgment calls by referees in any game.
"We have worked very hard to bring technology in to address those issues," the commish insisted. "The game is not officiated by robots. It won't be. But we have to get better."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen