Okay, before I get started I have to explain my new blog header. As many of you know, I’m a longtime Vikings fan and last week I made a bet with a Saints fan on the outcome. The loser had to change their Twitter pic for a week, and the nice folks at Blitzed NFL were good enough to change my blog header as well - even though it wasn’t part of the bet.
Also, as a part of the bet, I am required to write this too (sigh):
“Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat think dey gonna beat dem Saints?”
Okay, with that unpleasantness out of the way, on with my post.
Poor Hugo Cruz. All he was trying to do was his job. Sure he blew a big call, but maybe, just maybe he was distracted momentarily by a cute girl in the stands. Maybe he was thinking of that South Park episode where Butters…anyway you get the point. So he missed a False Start call that altered the Browns Chargers game. And for that he was the first referee let go mid season in 50 years of NFL football. The guys talked about it on the last show, where they talked about the scariest things in the NFL:
Now I’m told that Mr Cruz had a trend of poor reffing performances this year and the false start was just the straw that broke the camel's back, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good blog post. Let MZE take you on a bad trip down memory lane of the worst reffing calls of all time.
AFC Playoffs 1972 - The Immaculate Reception
The Steelers of the 70s were a dominant force. They were the Patriots except without a cheating QB and coach. The Steelers were about to lose to the Oakland Raiders. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw dropped back and fired a pass to the waiting Frenchy Fuqua. Raiders’ Jack Tatum, a vicious hitter in his day, drilled Fuqua and the ball caromed into the waiting hands of Franco Harris. The rest was history as, “The Immaculate Reception,” would forever go down in football lore. Here’s the thing. In 1972 it was illegal for two receivers to touch the ball consecutively without a defender touching it in between. Replays don’t give any evidence of Tatum touching the ball so the “Immaculate Reception” was really, “The Illegal Reception.” Too bad there was no replay back then, huh?
Thanksgiving 1998 - The Wrong 'Flipping' Call
Nothing says Thanksgiving like turkey and Lions’ football. Well, that and Uncle Gene drinking too much wine and sharing his political views. This particular Thanksgiving gave us the Steelers visiting Detroit. It was an epic struggle that got us free football. All referee Phil Luckett had to do was flip a coin and listen. Simple, right? Apparently not. Steelers RB and now Hall of Famer, Jerome Bettis, yelled loud and proud, “tails!” Maybe it was the noise that couldn’t escape the Dome. Maybe Phil was hanging out with Uncle Gene the night before. Whatever the case, Phil saw the coin come up tails and inexplicably gave the choice to the Lions. Since when does, “tails,” sound like, “heads?” The Lions took the ball, marched down the field, and kicked a field goal to win the game. This did not cost Phil his job.
AFC Wild Card Playoffs 1999 - The Music City Miracle
The Buffalo Bills are one of the most heartbroken franchises in NFL playoff history. During the AFC Wild Card playoffs in January of 2000, their collective gut wrenched on a very sour note. Late in their game with the Tennessee Titans, the Bills took a one-point lead. One kickoff and some prevent defense would have sent them on to the next round. Titans tight end, Frank Wycheck, fielded the bouncing kick and history was about to be made. Frankie Boy thought fast and threw the ball clear across the field to quick wide receiver, Kevin Dyson. The Bills’ special teams unit was at a loss as Dyson ran the ball 75 yards down the field for the game-winning touchdown. Thing is, it wasn’t a lateral. It was a forward pass by the slimmest of margins. No flag was thrown and for whatever reason there wasn’t enough on video for the officials to change the call. Had that flag come down, we don’t get one of the best Super Bowls ever and maybe Bills’ fans would have one season of true glory…or five Super Bowl losses, which seems more likely. Should have started Flutie over Johnson anyway.
Monday Night Football 2012 - The Fail Mary
In 2012 NFL officials were in a salary dispute with the league and got locked out. The season began with replacement referees and things couldn’t have gone worse in the Seahawks-Packers Monday Night clash. With a 12-7 deficit, late in the 4th quarter, Russell Wilson heaved a pass into the end zone. Packers safety M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass and the Packers had held on for the win…or so they thought. After a blatant Offensive Pass Interference shove in the back, Golden Tate managed to get his hand on the ball on the bottom of the pile. Officials awarded the Seahawks the game-winning touchdown via the dual possession rule. Apparently it really was the Golden touch. I personally applaud the officials for this call but then again, I’m a Vikings fan so…
NFC Playoffs 1975 - The Hail Mary
It was a cold and dreary day December day in Minneapolis. The Vikings were ahead of the Cowboys, 14-10 and were prepared to advance to the next round of the playoffs. That is until one of the most blatantly missed calls in NFL history was made (but I’m not bitter). Roger Staubach heaved a pass in the direction of his wide receiver, Drew Pearson. As the ball descended, Pearson took down Vikings’ defensive back, Nate Wright, with an assault that would have gotten him five years in a Minnesota correctional facility. As Wright was sprawled out on the ground, Pearson made the catch for a 50-yard touchdown and the “Hail Mary” pass was born…basically because Pearson had to say 10 of them for his penance for his blatant penalty. Curse you, Drew Pearson! Curse you and…never mind. My therapist says I’m getting better.
So you see, folks, everyone makes mistakes. Next time you miss a decimal point at work or put that bottle marked, “Flammable,” next to a space heater just be glad you don’t work for the NFL or you may find yourself selling plasma to make rent.
Until next time, raise your glass, toss that pigskin around with your besties, Eff Tom Brady, and Go Saints!!
Let us know what you think was the worst call in NFL history.
Mike Zimmer's Ears is a Minnesota Vikings fan from Pennsylvania and is a #TeamBlitzed All Pro. You can follow him on Twitter.