NFL referees have a tough job, and of course they aren’t perfect. Fans cannot expect them to be perfect by any means. However, with the introduction of replays fully in 1999 the job of the referees have gotten easier being able to correct any bad instant judgements by being able to look at the play from many angles to make the right call. But still, referees infuriate fans with the worst calls. Here are just some of the terrible calls NFL referees have made over recent years.
Worst Ref Calls In History
- 1998 Thanksgiving Game *The Coin Toss”
During the 1999 Thanksgiving game between the Detroit Lions & the Pittsburgh Steelers, everyone thought the Steelers were going to trounce over the Lions. However, the Lions kept it close and the game ended up going to overtime. During the coin toss Phil Luckett asked, “heads or tails” to Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. Bettis clearly replied, “Tails.” But apparently Phil Luckett heard “heads” as the coin landed on tails. This allowed the Lions to win the toss, drive down the field, and hit a game winning 42 yard field goal. This call destroyed the Steelers momentum for the season as they would lose the last 4 games of their season.
- 1999 Wild Card Playoff Game “Music City Miracle”
This game took place between the 11-5 Buffalo Bills and the 13-3 Tennessee Titans. The game was close the whole way and the Bills hit a field goal that gave them a 16-15 lead with 16 seconds left. On the ensuing kickoff, the ball was kicked short and received by #89 Frank Wycheck who went to his right for a couple yards before turning around and throwing it to #87 Kevin Dyson who caught the ball and ran all the way for the game winning touchdown. The only problem is that the pass was a forward pass and that was illegal. The referees reviewed it but declared that it was a lateral pass and therefore legal. While certainly one of the hardest calls in history many believe that it was in fact a forward pass.
- 2012 Week 3 Monday Night Football “Fail Mary”
This game was during the infamous referee lockout where the professional referees were on strike over money issues. Therefore, not wanting to stall the NFL season, the NFL brought in replacement refs from D3 college football, Area Football League, and even high school football! The game came down to a final play where the home team Seattle Seahawks were on the 24 yard line on 4th and 10 against the Green Bay Packers with 8 seconds left. The Seahawks QB Russel Wilson threw a hail mary. the ball was fought in a crowd and ended being fought between CB M.D. Jennings and WR Golden Tate. The referees first failed to notice an offensive pass interference against Golden Tate when he pushed Sam Shields, which would cause a redo of the play. But then one of the refs called a touchdown and the other called it an interception. When the play went to review they didn’t call the offensive pass interference and they ruled it a touchdown although it was most likely an interception. This fiasco caused the referee lockout to promptly end 2 days later.
- 2014 Divisional Playoffs “Dez Bryant’s ‘Catch’”
This game placed the NFC east winning Dallas Cowboys against the NFC north winning Green Bay Packers. This game was expected to be close and it was. Late in the 4th quarter on 4th and 2, Cowboys QB Tony Romo tossed a pass to WR Dez Bryant, it was bumbled around and caught around the goalline. Originally ruled a pass, the Packers challenged the play and the play was overturned even though the ball never touched the ground until he was down. This led to a heartbreaking loss for the Cowboys who got rid of Tony Romo just 2 seasons later and Des Bryant 4 seasons later. Later, the NFL even admitted they got the play wrong and it should have been ruled as a catch.
- 2001 AFC Divisional Playoffs *The Tuck Rule”
This game is infamous for starting the New England Patriots dynasty and ending the Oakland Raiders dynasty. In the snow covered field with 1:50 left in the 4th quarter, QB Tom Brady took the hike and CB Charles Woodson blitzed and slapped the ball out of Tom Brady’s hand. The ball was recovered by the Raiders and the game was over, right? The play was reviewed and determined as a forward pass because he didn’t tuck the ball back into his body before losing possession. The Patriots went on to kick a game tying field goal and then in overtime win the game with another field goal. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year starting a nationwide dislike for the Patriots.
These are just some of the horrifying mistake calls refs have made over the years which makes true blue football fans MAD! Many times these mistaken calls can change the whole dynamic and outcome of the game. In turn this leads to a team winning that had the refs called right may never have won! As in this last game between the Saints & the Rams determining who would play in the Super Bowl!