AFL officials situation now completely out of control
The disappointment I feel every time I leave an AFL game these days is becoming too much. It has gotten to the point where I start wondering why I wasted my time to go in the first place. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the level of players these teams are putting on the field, not at all.
At the beginning of the year I was looking around the press box in Orlando thinking to myself, where are all the usual media guys? Where are the news stations? Where are the random newspapers that used to show up all the time when I did Media Relations here?
Now I can tell you exactly where they are, anywhere but in the Jungle to cover the Orlando Predators. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the level of players head coach Pat O’Hara is putting on the field, because clearly they are a top five team in the league.
Saturday night I saw a call so bad I almost could not believe my eyes and almost joined the rest of the media in Orlando who no longer bother to come out to cover the Preds. I know this game was not nationally televised so please allow me to paint the picture for you in case you were not watching on nifty.
Spokane Shock quarterback Kyle Rowley throws a pass into the back of the end zone—Orlando defensive back Rayshaun Kizer and Spokane wide receiver Raul Vijil were both playing the football on the back-line. Vijil gets two hands on the ball, juggling the whole time; Kizer makes the catch out of the back of the end zone as the two crash into a cheerleader. The back judge signals, TOUCHDOWN?!?!?!
Then just like a few weeks ago when Preds QB Nick Hill threw an interception off a fan. The in-house feed clearly shows the play happening as I just explained and once again we are left without instant replay to get the call right as an incomplete pass.
It was a first down play and I am not saying this call made a difference in a game that was won by the team with their gun fully loaded. However, I am saying that this needs to stop or there just will not be media coverage of the league anymore. It is no wonder why the league only allows NFL Network games to have instant replay. Obviously a move to avoid embarrassment by making up for the bad officiating on national television, but otherwise our commissioner and staff could care less.
I mean, how bad is it that as the Preds team beat writer I can no longer go to the games and lead my story with how I thought the team played? If you are scoring at home this is two out of three Preds home games now I have had to lead with the zebras.
The officials the league puts on the field these days make Wes Fritz and Bill Lemonnier look as if they are the greatest ever at officiating the AFL. Shoot, maybe they are! All I know is that this is downright pathetic and if it does not change I can easily find something better to do with my Friday and Saturday nights.
To close this rant; For a league that needs all the positive publicity it can get right now, they sure are not in much of a hurry to make obvious changes to give these officials the tools to help them make correct calls on a regular basis.
Now back to my regularly scheduled column on where I tell you how I thought the Preds played. I know the biggest question on the minds of our loyal Predator fans was the absence of WR’s T.T. Toliver and Bobby Sippio. Both suffered knee injuries in the game against the Georgia Force last week and both were not feeling well enough to go against the Shock.
It is early in the season; my feeling is that if this were a playoff game both would have suited up. However, since there is a big game against the Jacksonville Sharks next week the Preds camp felt holding out both would give them a better chance of playing in a more important divisional match-up.
On this weekend of Easter I just want to say God bless you, Nick Hill! If not for your ability to run outside of the pocket this would have never been a contest. The Preds offensive line did not hold up well against the pass rush of the Shock. Even when they did, the Preds trio of receivers (Josh Bush, Doug Gabriel, and Robert Quiroga) had trouble getting open downfield. Bush made some sensational catches while under extreme coverage by the Shock to keep his team in the game; Hill made outstanding throws on those plays as well.
Aw crud! I forgot there was another real bad call made on Hill that also nearly sent me to an early exit. In the fourth quarter, Hill had a 30-yard touchdown run to bring the Preds to within 56-45. He then got up and said something to one of the Shock’s DB’s at which point he was shoved. A flag comes out, obviously it’s unnecessary roughness right?
Hill was called for taunting. D’oh! Since when do we call taunting on a quarterback?! The side judge in this game should also be ashamed of himself for that one. I could care less what Hill said; a shove after the whistle is much harsher than any words could ever be.
A couple weeks back I received a phone call from Preds DB Kenny “The Glove” McEntyre. He says, “Jason, we’ve got to write a column about how nobody is throwing the ball at me this year.” I said, “Dang K-Mac, you’re right! Philly really picked on [Travis] Coleman this last game you barely got to make a play.”
Well Kenny Mac I have to give you a big mention this week; not only for what you did right, but also for what I think you did wrong. The Preds were trailing 21-7 in the second quarter when McEntyre made his first interception of the season and returned it for six bringing Orlando to a 21-14 deficit. K-Mac’s 11-yard return was one of grace and skill as he slipped four tackles and dove into the end zone just like old times. Now if only he could have scaled the 20-foot wall to celebrate with the fans like he used to in the old arena.
The Shock must have tapped my phone because it appeared their game plan was to throw at McEntyre a lot. Just before halftime it appeared to me that K-Mac blew his deep zone assignment that allowed Vijil to get behind him for a 41-yard touchdown that should have never happened with 13 seconds to go. The idea there was for the Preds to force the Shock into a long field goal try to end the half, but instead the coverage was blown and Orlando headed into the locker room down 35-28 instead of tied at 28.
Next week does not get any easier for the Preds as they trek up I-95 to Jacksonville and face the division leading Sharks (5-1) at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. Game time is set for 8 p.m. on the NFL Network. I will also be making this trip to provide ArenaFan with coverage of a game that will be tape-delayed until Sunday by the network due to the NFL draft live coverage. In fact, I will get my wish to watch a game where instant replay can and you know it most certainly will be used at some point.
I guarantee it!