The Browns-Colt refs should have their uniforms enshrined in the Blown Calls Hall of Shame

The Browns-Colt refs should have their uniforms enshrined in the Blown Calls Hall of Shame

What should have been a magic Minshew moment in Sunday’s game turned out to be a low moment for the NFL. If there was a museum where the replacement refs responsible for the Fail Mary or the Tuck Rule refs who birthed Tom Brady could be dishonored for blown calls, this crew would be first ballot enshrinees. Buy a space across the street from the NFL HQ in midtown Manhattan, and it would become a historical landmark. I’ve seen some questionable calls, but the officials who handed the Cleveland Browns a harrowing 39-38 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday should be immortalized in a Blown Football Calls Hall of Shame.

Gardner Minshew was outright majestic against a Browns defense that came into Sunday ranking first in most metrics, including points allowed and in quarterbacks chewed up and swallowed whole. When all was said and done, Minshew accounted for over 300 yards by air and threw for multiple touchdowns.

After Deshaun Watson exited another contest due to karma injury, it became the Backup Bowl. P.J. Walker still had something to say about the final, leading consecutive scoring drives courtesy of the pass rush and special teams. Walker only threw for 178 yards and completed fewer than 50 percent of his attempts, but he didn’t need too much except to avoid mistakes. Late in the fourth quarter, he received a final assist from the refs.

Trailing by four, the Browns needed a touchdown but their drive stalled on a third down from the Indy 13 when linebacker E.J. Speed forced a fumble and the Colts recovered with 38 seconds remaining.

After briefly flatlining, the officials performed textbook necromancy by flagging Darrell Baker Jr. for illegal contact to give the Browns new life. On the ensuing play, the officials targeted Baker again with a pass interference in the back of the endzone when the ball was clearly uncatchable. Walker’s high arcing pass was thrown so far out of bounds that it was beyond Donovan People-Jones even after he was spread out six feet behind the boundary. That call advanced the ball to the 1, which positioned the bruising Kareem Hunt to barrel his way into a touchdown on fourth and goal.

Even reading that must be infuriating for Colts faithful. Make a call like that, and you gon’ have to fight your way out of most cities. Make no mistake: the Browns’ stellar defense did enough to keep them in the game until the final whistle, but they ultimately didn’t deserve to be a feel-good story on Sunday, not as long as they’re paying Deshaun Watson record money to be their overhyped starter while their backup keeps getting granted free carpet rides to wins. It was Indy that made all the plays they needed to win, and they should have.

I’m not going to imply there’s some grand conspiracy that extends to the league’s 345 Park Avenue headquarters needing to keep the Browns in AFC North contention. Nah, this was just incompetence. I’m just riled up off the visceral disgust of Peak Ref OverOfficiating. Refs taking over contests are like an overactive gland: someone’s got to shrink their influence.

If we’re going to have officials, their penalties should be reviewable. The NFL has to at least consider adding a sky judge or returning pass interference reviews in some capacity. The league scrapped the DPI review system after the 2019 season, but in consecutive weeks, we’ve seen questionable calls in the endzone have an outsized influence on the final score. Blaming the refs always seems like a crutch for fans with hurt feelings, but Sunday was the latest disgraceful instance of officials making themselves the stars of the production.

Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.