I Reiterate: Don’t Blame The Refs

Eric Kendricks
Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) speaks with outside linebacker Anthony Barr (55) during practice at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Following the loss to the Bengals, I made my case that blaming the refs misses the point. Did the refs get that Cook fumble wrong? I’m about 99% certain they did. Should they therefore shoulder the blame for the loss? By no means.

Here’s my rationale. Let’s say Cook is ruled down by contact. Fine. Minnesota gets the ball back and they still need to execute. In all likelihood, they still try to move the ball down the field as they drain the clock. Greg Joseph then marches onto the field for what is likely a long field goal attempt. As we saw in the Arizona game, it’s no guarantee he makes it. Plus, Minnesota made all kinds of mistakes earlier in the game. Let’s not forget our myriad of penalties or Breeland’s coverage bust at the end of first half. These are the things that really allowed Ja’Marr Chase’s prediction to become a reality.

Following yet another disappointing loss, we are once again searching for a scapegoat. Personally, I’ve been placing the blame on the sieve of an offensive line, but several others are turning their attention to the refs. What in the world were they thinking on that Eric Kendricks penalty? Moreover, how can Kendricks get penalized for his minor infraction when Adam Thielen was basically tackled on the game’s final play? If you don’t remember the plays I’m talking about, take a peak at the videos. Seeing them side-to-side really hammers home how bad these decisions were:

As I suggested above, seeing the videos back-to-back crystallizes how awful the calls were (an English major would tell you it’s juxtaposition in action). I’m not exaggerating when I say I had to re-watch the Kendricks video and squint to see any “penalty.” We should have had a second goal line stand. Instead, Cleveland got a fresh set of downs. A few plays later and they had an 8-7 lead. Even worse, our late attempt to snag a victory were hindered by Thielen getting wrapped up by a defender before the ball is anywhere near. I don’t know if he would have caught that ball, but I do know that he would have actually had a chance to if he wasn’t getting wrapped up.

Over at Bring Me The News, Chris Schad argues (as the title says) that Vikings fans “could legitimately pin loss to the Browns on the officials.” He explains: “Now, we can’t overlook the fact that the Vikings offense struggled mightily in the face of the Browns’ top-quality defensive line, or that the Vikings’ run defense once again seemed non-existent on a day that the Browns’ Baker Mayfield was awful. But had the penalty been called on the final play, Minnesota would’ve had the ball at the goal line for one final play and a chance to tie the game and force overtime, or potentially score a touchdown and win on a two-point conversion.”

Schad’s position got some support from a Super Bowl-winning coach (someone who I really respect):

Where I differ from Schad largely rests on where the onus lies. In football, coaches continually tell you to focus on the things you can control. Players can control their effort, if they shed a block, if they all rally to a tackle, if they lower their shoulder to fight for an extra yard, if they step up the pocket to elude pressure, and if they hold back from blocking from behind. The list goes on.

They can’t control the referees.

At this point, we shouldn’t expect competent, consistent officiating. Every week gives us yet another example that the rules are applied inconsistently and incorrectly. Folks, it’s completely beyond our control, so we shouldn’t focus on it unless it’s the most egregious miss or non-call. Saints fans have a legit reason to be upset about that beautiful missed pass interference against the Rams. That’s a rare instance when we can blame the referees. Otherwise, the focus needs to be brought back to one’s own team.

Indeed, let’s focus our attention on what we can control. The referees certainly didn’t force our offensive line to get bullied all day. The referees didn’t force our run defense to allow Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to both have productive days. The refs didn’t force Kirk to throw his first INT of the season. We could go on, recounting the various errors Minnesota made throughout the game, but you likely get the point.

In Week 5, I’m expecting Minnesota to win. I’m expecting them to build up a big enough lead that the refs no longer matter in the outcome of the game. That’s what I’m looking for from this team. Forget the referees; we know we can’t rely on them to get things right. Instead, let’s play football at such a high level that even incompetent referees can’t snatch away a win.