Top 5 Worst Calls by NFL Referees

Sometimes calls, or non-calls, by football referees are so bad that even I stand-up and take notice. Take what happened to Julio Jones and the Falcons on Sunday, for instance. Normally, I don’t Tweet out things like this, but in this case…


As for the Al Ford reference, if you think I’m bitter about what happened to the Dawgs in 1999, then you are right. But let’s move on from that, at least right now. I’m also bitter about what happened to Julio on Sunday. It was one of the worst non-calls I’ve seen in a while.

Look, I know referees can’t always get everything right, but what bugs me is how a ref can let a home crowd or a team’s sideline influence a call.

Another thing to consider here is the advent of the television replay. The slo-mo, super slo-mo and endless camera angles confirm bad calls. Within the last 15 years we have seen more scrutiny than ever before.

So with all that in mind, I present my  ‘Top 5 Worst Calls by NFL Referees.

5.)  The Sherman Grab, 2016

Okay, so originally I was not going to put this in, but after looking at the replay, there is no doubt it belongs, at least, in a “Top 10.”  The good news is coach Dan Quinn and Julio Jones have moved on. But we, as Falcons fans, have not. This proves one thing: the only way to really stop Julio is to pull him to the ground when the ball is in the air.

4.)  Turkey Day Flip-Flop:  Thanksgiving Day, 1998

As the Lions and Steelers were ready to begin overtime, referee Phil Luckett asked Pittsburgh captain Jerome Bettis to call the coin toss. Bettis said “tails” but as the coin was in the air, Luckett said:  “heads is the call.”  The coin landed on tails. Lions got the ball, drove down and kicked a field goal for the game winner. Luckett said Bettis first said “heads.” It eventually led to a change in the way the NFL does its coin toss. Now the heads-tails choice must be made prior to the coin flip.

3.)  The Rice Fumble, 1998

The year 1998 must have been a bad year to be an NFL referee. Case in point: the NFC Wild Card game between the 49ers and the Packers. Many remember “the catch” by Terrell Owens from Steve Young from that game; however, that touchdown was made possible by a blown call earlier in the drive. Jerry Rice caught a Young pass on second down with :42 second to go in the game and fumbled.  The referees said Rice was down by contact, but the replay clearly showed he was not. Should have been a fumble. Should have been Green Bay’s ball. Packers fans say, “Hell yeah!” San Francisco fans say, “Get over it!”


2.) Fail Mary, 2012

As NFL fans, where would we be without replacement refs to complain about?  In 2012 a referee lockout due to a labor dispute between the refs and the NFL put replacements on the field to call the game. On Monday Night Football September 24, the Seahawks beat the Packers because Russell Wilson’s ‘Hail Mary’ pass in the end zone to Golden Tate was ruled a touchdown. The call had a little bit of everything: a missed offensive interference call, separate signals of touchdown and touchback by two refs and finally the call of a simultaneous catch and winning touchdown. The call was so bad, that the NFL and referees union end the lockout two days later.

1.) Tuck Rule Game, 2001

The 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game in Foxborough, Massachusetts between Oakland and New England was played during a snowstorm. The Raiders and Patriots were involved in quite a battle. Oakland led 13-10 with 1:50 to go in the game. The Raiders’ Charles Woodson hit Tom Brady causing a fumble which Oakland recovered. However, the refs reviewed the play and said that Brady’s arm was coming forward and thus was an incomplete pass. New England kept the ball, drove down for the game tying Adam Vinatieri 45-yard field goal. The Patriots won in overtime. They also won their first Super Bowl that season.


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