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Yes, the officiating was trash. No, that’s not why the 49ers lost

Fans are still tired of this.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Congratulations John Hussey, you have joined the ranks of Bill Vinovich and Jerome Boger in some badly called games. It’s not possible to list just how embarrassing your crew looked when the San Francisco 49ers played the Cleveland Browns without breaking the SB Nation servers, but let’s give it a shot and go right to the money clip:

That’s a backbreaking call, that’s an awful call, it’s a call that should have had a rule change in the offseason to be reviewed. Had the 49ers kept that down, they could have stopped the Browns in their tracks on 4th down. The game was essentially over. Instead, the Browns stayed on the field and got the field goal that led them to a win.

It also is not the reason the 49ers lost that game. Far from it. The 49ers lost that game because Brandon Aiyuk dropped a deep shot. The 49ers lost that game because Brock Purdy overthrew Christian McCaffrey. The 49ers lost that game because Steve Wilks’s defense crumbled after giving the near impossible task of playing the whole game (oh don’t worry, we’re going to get to that). The 49ers lost that game because Jake Moody couldn’t hit a bloody 41-yarder.

They didn’t lose because of the officiating biscuits. The 49ers have been beneficiaries of both wins and losses thanks to atrocious officiating, and today it was the latter. So if you’re coming here and saying the officials are the reason the 49ers are 5-1 today, please don’t.

But the two aren’t mutually exclusive and while the 49ers gave a poor showing, we can still discuss how disturbing this is because this trend is troubling. I always thought Vinovich and Boger would be the only thing consistent with the officiating in that they are inconsistent at officiating, but Hussey and his crew definitely move themselves up a few pegs.

And that’s one play to decide the game. We haven’t even started yet. There’s this gem.

That is a fumble. At least it was when it came out of Brock Purdy’s hands in similar fashion. To say his hand was “going forward” is nonsense, and you know it.

There’s also a play I can’t show where the Browns' defender wrapped his arms around whom, I think, was Jauan Jennings and flat tackled him in the end zone. Last I checked that’s not allowed. And no, that’s not out physicaling a football team, that’s just dirty and cheap.

But I haven’t even gotten to one of the most embarrassing calls. A call that was a facemask...on the Browns?

At least they were able to set things right here after a mistake:

After a discussion on the field.

Wait, what? “Discussion on the field?” Why...... and I want a lot of dots after this next one because it’s important why....................

Is there a [site decorum] discussion on the field in the first place?!

You know, a sky judge could help here. He could quickly call say “Hey got it wrong, move it,” and you move things up in the span of 30 seconds. Maybe New York phones in and screams in your ear. But let’s have a discussion on the field. Sure, Hussey. At least they got this right. At least they flipped things around while taking the L.

Don’t worry Cleveland, I got your back in this trash also. In the game, Hussey called the Browns short of a first down. Why we still use chains and nails from the 1930s is its own question, but the Browns got called short.

No, they weren’t. That’s a first down. The Browns got the first down via a challenge flag, but should they really need to throw a challenge flag for something so obvious? It’s just like the missed dropped pass in the NFC Championship game for the 49ers. Everyone is mad Kyle Shanahan didn’t throw a challenge flag when the Eagles clearly had an incompletion. My counterpoint:


The challenges are just as outdated as chains at this point. There is no need for them with the technology available to just GET IT RIGHT! Call a timeout, air some commercials (review timeouts instead of those random TV there’s a novel idea), run a quick replay with skilled people in New York that have five angles cued up in two seconds, if you need all of that instead of just some GPS tracking then do it. What the NFL has, isn’t working, well, for the fans anyway.

If you think Hussey was the only one to have a bad day, you are wrong. He’s one of the most experienced officials, and he still manages to leave things questionable. Let me take you to Buffalo-New York, especially if you are like me and didn’t want to stomach another night of the New York Giants on prime time:

Oh, look. Another piece of evidence to review personal fouls.

None of this would really bother me if the NFL had some accountability. If they said, “Hey we screwed up, this team really missed the boat here. We have evaluated them with this, this, and this, they right now may not officiate a playoff game.”

Or. “It’s clear this crew has done a subpar job. We have fined each of them.”

But no. Teams are fined if insomuch as a whisper is made about how incompetent the assigned officiating crew is. The refs will get their private emails and evaluations telling them what they did wrong or right and go about their business. Or to their second job since the NFL doesn’t want full time officiating crews (another novel idea).

And the NFL Competition committee is just as much to blame—and as useless—as the referees are. Every year fans plea for change and every year the competition committee either votes out or just doesn’t pass anything beneficial. You know the logical things suggested: auto reviews for personal fouls, actual sky judges rather than “sky judges”, review timeouts, consistency in calls, a gauge of when a holding call will happen. Something, anything.

It’s mind-boggling how a committee can find this efficient. The committee has both coaches, VPs, and an owner, and they can’t get it together.

But here’s the worst part, it’s never going to change. At least not right now with ratings through the roof. Fans have bought the merchandise and will continue to watch. The NFL has no incentive to change anything because they outdo themselves year over year with ratings and revenue.

If you don’t like what the NFL is giving you, you are more than entitled to turn off the TV and speak with your rating. Don’t buy 49ers lanyards or George Kittle shirts, don’t lay down the ridiculous costs for Sunday Ticket.

Don’t search and watch football shows talking about the sport. Doing so only incentivizes the NFL to keep doing what it has been doing. Why should yet another terrible showing by archaic officiating systems be the catalyst for a change when they already have your money and are guaranteed more?

Stop kidding yourself.

With the NFL leaning increasingly into sports betting, all it’s going to take is one line judge or a ref to be caught with a betting slip and the NFL will be in a world of hurt with this archaic method.

And that will cause the aforementioned catastrophe: people stop watching, merchandise sits on shelves, Sunday Ticket has very few buys. And when that happens, that’s when everyone stops watching and it becomes damage control. Maybe the NFL will do it now before it’s too late.

Of course, they won’t. The competition committee will pass some kickoff rule and then add another safety rule, so they can avoid a lawsuit.

Circling back to John Hussey, he and his crew are not the reason the 49ers lost on Sunday, but they—and several other officiating crews—are the reason NFL games are unwatchable exercises in frustration.