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O-Zone: Too tough

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jess from Glen Carbon, IL

The penalty on Bradbury was, by the definition of the rule, defensive holding. I think fans have such a problem with that call because similar "holding" isn't called by other officials or officiating crews – and officials call holding during the regular season but not in the playoffs when they "let the players play." The inconsistency from one crew to another or from regular season to postseason contributes to the fans' frustration. If it's a penalty, call it the same way in every game by every crew.

Perhaps we will move forward from the Great Officiating Debate someday. Perhaps not. Either way, yes … the holding call on Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry defending Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Ju-Ju Smith Schuster late in Super Bowl LVII Sunday was marginal. And controversial. It perhaps could have gone uncalled. And it absolutely has further fueled the Great Officiating Debate that has reached a seemingly unprecedented volume. But rather than being an example of the NFL needing to do something about officiating, the thought here is the play perfectly illustrated why there's really not anything that can be done to "fix" officiating. That's because there's nothing fundamentally wrong with officiating. The call on Bradberry indeed wasn't wrong. It seemed by letter of the rule to be correct. People's unhappiness stems from a belief on the part of some that it shouldn't have been called. It therefore by definition was a "judgement call." How is the NFL supposed to "fix" judgement? Had officials been able to review and change the call, it wouldn't have "fixed" the issue because the half of the viewers who believed the call was merited would have been angry. And no one would have been "right." The league hires experienced, capable officials. They hire people willing to work in a profession in which they are constantly – and often unfairly – criticized. They educate these officials on the rules. They write the rules as much as possible in a way that the games can be officiated uniformly. But every game is different. Every play is different. And every play is executed at high speed with phenomenally physical athletes. Trying to get officials to officiate every game and every play exactly the same is a lofty and understandable goal – and an impossible one to reach. I therefore expect this frustration to always be a part of watching football. Or any sport. Or pretty much anything where human beings are asked to judge something.

Greg from Boise, ID

The call in question technically was a penalty, but was it enough so that it should have been called? Had they not called it, KC, fans and media would be screaming they should have thrown the flag. Either way, it would be controversial.


Richard from Orange Park, FL

The only way to settle the human-element-to-officiating debate is for stadiums to have probably 1,000,000 cameras to capture all angles of the field and a software to spot a foul instantly. Once a foul is spotted, it would signal to the scoreboard or some other board that there was a foul on the play and what exactly that foul was. This would be ludicrous, costly and frankly take the fun out of football. I for one don't want a software that can spot every single penalty that occurs in a game. If there was something like that, the games would be tedious, boring and last forever. While I don't like some of the calls officials make, I think this is the best approach to football that needs to stay exactly as it is. No automating needed whatsoever.


Michael from Middleburg, FL

Everyone is waiting for Ridley. There's a slight possibility he won't be reinstated and logically a stronger possibility he won't be comparably physically fit as before his layoff. No one has considered the fact he took himself out for mental health reasons. What are we to think of this?

You assertion that no one has considered the fact that wide receiver Calvin Ridley left the NFL in 2021 for mental health reasons smacks with boldness and confidence. It's also incorrect. Of course the Jaguars considered this before acquiring Ridley in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons this past season. Of course they considered that he will have had nearly a two-year layoff when the 2023 season begins. Of course they considered that he has just one year remaining on his contract. Of course they also considered that he is currently under suspension for gambling – with a slight possibility he won't be reinstated. But there's every indication that he will be reinstated, and indications are that he has been training and will have no issues with condition. Still: The aforementioned uncertainly is part of why Ridley cost the Jaguars a conditional 2023 sixth-round selection and a conditional 2024 fourth-round selection rather than the significantly pricier compensation he might have merited otherwise. The risk in this case was greater than the reward. As for what you are to think of this … I haven't the foggiest idea. But that's OK. My experience tells me that most people will think what they like no matter my answer anyway.

Nick from Palatka, FL

Hey, Zone. Yeah the refs inserted themselves into the game again at a very inopportune time but a game like that is not decided by one call. With two evenly matched teams, the one that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins. I didn't see KC make any big booboos but Philly made two huge gaffs (scoop and score and Kadarius Toney punt return) that cost them the game. But I guess conspiracy theories are a lot more fun.

Yes, they are.

Richard from St. Augustine, FL

Could Trevor and Ridley get together and start working on timing and routes? I am guessing it would be best to wait until NFL clears Ridley to be activated to play again. What is likelihood this could happen?

Yes, they can. But there's little point. The Jaguars' season ended a little more than three weeks ago, and I would expect Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence to take at least a few more weeks before throwing much again. Ridley is eligible to apply for reinstatement this week. There will be plenty of time within a normal offseason routine for Ridley and Lawrence to start establishing timing.

Bryan from Stumptown

Yo, Grizz! Lots of talk about re-signing our impending free agents. My priority would be to sign Jamal Agnew (Jagnew), my favorite Non-Trevor Player (NTP). Despite the fumble, Jagnew proved instrumental to momentum shifts and made tons of big plays. What's it likely to take to get him back in teal (and black and white and gold)?

Agnew is under contract for the 2023 season. The issue will be whether the Jaguars believe his value being worth his cap hit of $5.8 million. He would be about a $4.7 million cap savings if released.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

Do you think the people who want every play covered by 87 laser- aided camera angles with 10-minute reviews on every play will be happy the refs made the technically correct call or will they be the ones complaining the most?

They'll still complain because there will still be judgment calls.

Mike from Azores

John, what do you think of this Super Bowl schedule change? Play the game at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Require both teams to stay in town until 4 p.m. Sunday. Starting Sunday morning you could have interviews with coaches and players right up to a full replay of the game on Sunday more in the format of the Manning casts with commentary and decisions debated! I think this would increase viewers on Saturday with the early start and the following day off for most workers! I believe the Sunday schedule would allow more people to watch a replay of the game with more discussion and second-guessing of plays and coaches decisions! What do you think?

The NFL will never do this. Once a game is done in the NFL, it's done. Once the Super Bowl is done, the winning team is ready to celebrate and the losing team is ready to leave – and begin the offseason. No way the losing team is going to stay a day to happily do interviews. The NFL would never require this. Nor should it.

Jeremy from Gilbert, AZ

The "process of a catch" is one of the worst rules in the NFL. People around the world know what a catch is but the NFL does not. To require possession maintained after you catch the ball and are out of bounds and tumbling on the sidelines and into the stands while verifying the ball never moved … that is just dumb!

It's not a good rule. The league knows this. The problem isn't that the NFL doesn't want a better catch rule. It's that there is no way to have a good "catch" rule.