And you thought the strangest part of NFL officiating was figuring out if a catch happened.
After the 49ers marched down the field to start the second half and made the score 21-6, Dre Greenlaw suplexed wide receiver DeVonta Smith after the whistle blew resulting in a flag. The penalty was an obvious unnecessary roughness and a bonehead move.
Things didn’t stop there. Shortly thereafter, Greenlaw made contact with Philadelphia’s chief security officer Dom DiSandro. DiSandro shoved Greenlaw away and Greenlaw threw what some think was a pointed finger and others was an actual punch at DiSandro.
That made things worse. Next thing you know both Greenlaw and DiSandro are ejected.
49ers' Dre Greenlaw has been disqualified from tonight's game after this incident on the Eagles sideline. pic.twitter.com/2N4W17N8u9— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 3, 2023
Except the 49ers were the only ones penalized. No offsetting fouls, nothing to Philadelphia’s bench. DiSandro left to standing applause for his act.
So what gives?
Eagles beat writer Zach Berman had an interview with NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson after the game and got a lengthy explanation. Here is the entire manuscript below:
That’s about what you’d expect, a whole lot of nothing. The one thing to take in mind is Rule 19 which explains what’s reviewed. You can read a copy of the rule book here. Basically, rule 19 allows the officials to flag a player and then consult video for assistance, but if doing so, they can’t throw a flag after the fact on a non-player.
There’s nothing stopping the officials from flagging DiSandro in real time (which would be unsportsmanlike on Philadelphia’s bench) during the scrum, but since they didn’t flag him initially, a non-player can’t be flagged after the fact. Just other players in that scenario.
The other takeaway is Greenlaw’s ejection stemmed from him putting hands on DiSandro, the non-player in this situation. It had nothing to do with his suplex or insightful conversation with the Philly bench after the play.
And they better fine him the same amount of money they’re going to fine Dre.— Azeez Al-shaair (@A_train2_) December 3, 2023
That doesn’t exclude non-players from penalties entirely. Here’s Rule 8 explaining that:
ARTICLE 8. NON-PLAYER PERSONNEL
Non-player personnel of a club (e.g., management personnel, coaches, trainers, equipment personnel) are prohibited from making unnecessary physical contact with or directing abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures at opponents, game officials, or representatives of the League.
Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. (Unsportsmanlike Conduct.) Enforcement is from:
a) the succeeding spot if the ball is dead;
b) the previous spot if the ball was in play; or
c) whatever spot the Referee, after consulting with the crew, deems equitable. (Palpably Unfair Act.)
Note: Violations which occur before or during the game may result in disqualification in addition to the yardage penalty. Any violation at the game site on the day of the game, including postgame, may result in discipline by the Commissioner.
So basically, the refs missed this. They could have flagged DiSandro initially before consulting review, and it would have been two personal fouls. Instead, they followed upon Greenlaw’s contact with DiSandro and couldn’t proceed to flag DiSandro after since he’s a “non-player.” Yet, since he’s the “non-player” should a player put their hands on him, it’s instant ejection.
Well, that’s stupid.
There is no argument on Greenlaw’s penalty. Brock Lesnar thinks that suplex was excessive. The ejection is a bit harsh, but rules are rules, and those rules are put in place to protect non-players, which makes sense on paper.
The 49ers have to have cool heads in those situations and are darn lucky the loss of one of their best run-stoppers didn’t hurt them more than it did. An ejection is harsh, but that kind of behavior can’t be tolerated. Plus, the refs had to keep control of the game or that chippiness we saw would be way worse.
That said, it also makes no sense that both sides are not penalized in this situation. This is one of those things that very well could be coming to the competition committee’s desk in the offseason where if in a scrum with a non-player, the officials can throw additional flags in review.
There’s no reason if the opposing team’s bench of non-players gets involved that they can’t be penalized for it. If that’s the case, what’s stopping a team from planting someone on the sidelines for this exact scenario?
The officials certainly missed this one, but it doesn’t help that there’s a strange loophole that says they can’t penalize non-players after the fact, at least from how I read it.
So that makes the “Dre Greenlaw” rule potentially on the docket and also banning the Tush Push.
At least the Eagles can inspire all this change.