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BLAME IT ON THE REFS AND THE COACH

by Jerry Gilbert
The mighty Green Bay Packer Offense was a no show against the Detroit Lions in Sunday in Detroit as the Packers gave away the opener 17-3. The team did not play very well, but they may have been able to steal a win but for the most inept display of officiating I have seen in years.

Watch other cornerbacks in other games; closer to home, watch Green Bays Al Harris. Every cornerback does what Ahmad Carroll was flagged for, but only the refs designated bad boy gets the yellow flag.. The lead official even announced a penalty against number 28 on a special team play when Carroll was sitting on the bench.

That is only part of it. Donald Driver was mugged in the end zoneno flag. Nick Barnett grabs the quarterbacks arm on a sack called roughing the passer because the QB leans his head into the tackle. Hands to the face calls may also involve a last second forward lean by the offensive player. A flat hand to the chest becomes a flat hand to the bottom of the face mask. Questionable calls kept the Lions offense on the move and thwarted every major gain by the Packer offense.

I am not claiming there is a conspiracy. I am saying that this group of officials was at best lazy and, more likely, incompetent. In every game there are times that officials let them play or rein them in. Ahmad Carroll presents an easy target when the play is getting too rough. Flag the bad boy, and the others will back off a biteven if the bad boy did not do anything on that particular play. That is not all. The sheer disparity of 18 penalties against one team and a half dozen against the other raises questions. The fact that penalties were called at the worst times for the Packers had a demoralizing effect on players and fans alike. A friend said to me: after awhile, whenever there was a good play by the Packers, I said to myself here comers the flag Could the players have reacted any differently? The way the game was called affected the outcome.

Officials in all sports are taught that they should not become the center of attention. They should not determine outcomes except in the rare situation of a proper call or non-call as time expires. This crew must have been asleep when that subject was covered at referee school.

However, the game was not lost because of officiating. The game was lost because Mike Sherman has lost control of his players on the field. He tells them not to commit penalties, but both in the preseason and in the Lions game, his teaching is falling on deaf ears. Offense, defense and special teams, they all continue to commit needless and stupid penalties. The responsibility for that sorry state of affairs can rest only one placethe head coach. New Englands players do not play like that; neither should the Packers. One has to wonder, now that Mike Sherman is no longer the general manager, does he have less influence on his players? On the other hand, perhaps the players he selected as general manager are too stupid to learn how to play penalty free. More likely it is a combination of inadequacies in the selection and training of players. Any way you view it, the coach is a fault.

Ahmad Carrolls problems on Sunday also go back to coaching. Neither the boxing gloves experiment in practice last season, nor a year of coaching has changed this player in any significant way. He certainly has not shown the ability to adapt to the way a game is being called. Most of his rule infractions are of the type that do not affect the outcome of the play. These are not infractions by an occasionally over-aggressive player. Carroll simply has not demonstrated the self control to keep his hands off receivers. Why is such a player still on the field?

The coaching staff is letting the team down in another way. They are not very good at working the officials. This is a skill that probably must be developed over time. No one is born with the talent. Nevertheless, the Green Bay Packers will be at a d isadvantage as long as other teams are getting the calls from the officiating crews. The head coach affects the penalty statistics in many ways. So far this season, the effects are all negative.

The situation should improve. This is a team of adult professionals who will, at some point, stop shooting themselves in the foot. In addition, not every crew of officials will call games in a way to emphasize the Packers weaknesses. The players have a chance to get it together against fairly weak competition in the early part of the season. They need a little help from the refs and from their coach.

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