San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media this afternoon, and naturally one of the first questions was about Ahmad Brooks' personal foul on Drew Brees. Brooks came around the edge and got a huge sack of Brees, but was penalized for a blow to the head/neck area. We have a GIF of the play, and I'd recommend reading Matt Maiocco's rundown of the pertinent rule.
Harbaugh got several questions to potentially get him to criticize the officials, or acknowledge he might have been wrong. In response, Harbaugh reiterated that the 49ers did not view the play as a penalty. He said when the coaches review the film, they mark down a minus sign next to a player when he gets a penalty, and they did not give Brooks a minus sign.
He did acknowledge this was their point of view, which seemed to infer others might view it differently. When pressed on this, Harbaugh discussed how he was not allowed to criticize the officials. He made a comparison to NASCAR, stating that in NASCAR, when a race is complete, drivers and owners sometimes throw punches and generally criticize others. He said the NFL was different, and that he was not allowed to stand up there and argue it.
It is human nature to want to complain about the officiating from yesterday's game. There were some awful calls that went against the 49ers. While discussing it on Twitter earlier today, I got a lot of responses about how this was a close game and a single play could swing it. This is very true, as we could point to several "single plays" that flipped this game for the Saints.
And yet, as frustrating as poor officiating can be, unless there is some kind of change to the challenge system as is applies to penalties, mistakes are not going to change. It's not fair, but that's life. Given the huge emphasis on "player safety" the NFL is trying to project, you'd think they would consider the implications these penalties are having, and provide some kind of additional review system. Maybe one or two challenges strictly for penalties?
Whatever the case, in my mind, a team with the kind of talent the 49ers have should not be putting itself in a position to have the game decided by the refs. While the 49ers have no control over the officials, they do have control over their own execution and play-calling. The team needs to figure that out, and pointing fingers at the refs is only a temporary salve for what ails this team.
I'm not going to stop people from complaining about officiating here, and I'm sure you'll see me complaining about officiating as well. It can be a useful pressure release, but over the long haul, it's just going to make your head hurt.