Image Courtesy of Chiefs Wire-USA Today

By Zachary Lichter

If there is one thing people will remember about Super Bowl LVII, it’s the defensive holding call made by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry. 

It was 3rd & 8 (3rd down and 8 yards) with 1:54 left in the 4th quarter. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, threw the ball to the left side of the field to Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The pass was incomplete, but there was a flag on the play National Football League (NFL) referee Carl Cheffers called a defensive holding on Bradberry, which resulted in a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down. The defensive holding ended up costing the Eagles the game because after the Chiefs received a new set of downs, the Chiefs let the clock die down, and the Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker kicked a twenty-seven yard field goal to win the game 38-35 against the Eagles, making the Chiefs, Super Bowl Champions. While Chiefs fans were celebrating, many people were questioning the defensive holding call. A “holding” in football is a foul when a player grabs his opponent by the arm or pulls his jersey, making it hard for his opponent to catch the ball. According to the Athletic, Cheffers and his officiating crew had gone “576 consecutive snaps” before Super Bowl LVII without calling a defensive holding penalty. Are bad calls made by NFL referees now becoming a problem? 

Compared to Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL), the NFL uses very old-fashioned technology when it comes to reviewing plays. Whenever the head coach decides to challenge a play, the referee will review the play on a small television screen. The replay review on the screen might not help the referee make the right call after he is done. Another problem with NFL referees is that they don’t receive excessive training as they do in MLB, NBA, and the NHL. An example would be in the MLB, their umpires have to go to training camp during Spring Training every year.  Before a referee can officiate a football game in the NFL, they must undergo excessive training. The NFL does not do excessive training with their referees because many officials have additional careers. The NFL currently has twenty-four full-time referees, while there are a total of 121 referees officiating all the games. Whenever the NFL decides to create new rule changes, they have to enforce those rules without any training.

Sophomore accounting major David Fritz III gave his comments about NFL officiating.

“I think the NFL should most definitely change its replay technology when it comes to reviewing plays,” Fritz said. “In 2023 the NFL should not rely on a pole and chain to spot the ball on crucial plays. I was amazed by the 3D modeling used to review plays during the World Cup, and I think that the NFL should take note. NFL refs should receive extensive training. I think that any amount of more training is a good move.”

The holding calls in Super Bowl LVII will be a wake-up call for how NFL fans will look at how the referees officiate future games as they will be getting ready for the 2023 NFL Season While NFL fans have always given the referees a hard time during the games for making ridiculous calls, people’s hatred for NFL referees might possibly grow. Expect to hear the crowd roaring and booing as the referees make similar calls like the defensive holding call in Super Bowl LVII. It might not be an easy season for NFL officials, knowing now what people think of them. 

Freshman mechanical engineering major Christopher Crognale gave his comments about NFL officiating.

“I believe that NFL referees are some of the best officials in all of major league sports,” Crognale said. “They should, however, receive extensive training just as all other major league officials do. This way, they will be less likely to make mistakes that strongly affect the game. From this controversial call, other NFL officials should take away how to officiate differently during important situations. No referee wants to make a controversial call, such as this one, that changes the direction of the game and in this case, decides the winner of the game.”

It seems that almost every year, the NFL playoffs have some kind of controversial call, and fans are left wondering when will the NFL make possible changes. When will we see referees get replay reviews, correct? When will the NFL decide to take more action on training their referees? There are a lot of questions that are unanswered, but this holding call in Super Bowl LVII is a wake-up call for referees to change their ways of how they officiate games.

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