Rams vs. 49ers: Should NFL Punish Officiating Crew for Major Clock Mishaps?

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIINovember 11, 2012

The St. Louis Rams are 3-5-1 following the NFL’s first tie game since the 2008 season.

Playing on the road against the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis had three overtime possessions marred by poor clock management and penalties. That being said, the Rams were not the only unit on the field at fault for improperly using the clock.

In the early part of the second quarter, the crew of referees cost both teams well over a minute of regulation time after a completed pass from 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.

The third-down completion called for a measurement to be made on the field. At the beginning of the play, 13:40 was left on the clock. By the time the 49ers snapped the ball on fourth down, the clock showed 12:02.

This is not an isolated incident. In Week 1 against the Detroit Lions (also on the road), St. Louis may have lost the game due to poor clock operation in the fourth quarter. The difference between the two scenarios is that the one in Detroit was handled by the infamous replacement officials.

After the NFL referee lockout was settled, this sort of mistake wasn’t supposed to happen. Officials and clock operators may not be hired as a package deal, but the referees should catch these types of mistakes. 

Poor performances by referees are precisely why the NFL wanted to hold officials accountable for their mishaps and, if deemed necessary, bench entire crews. After Sunday’s NFC West stalemate, that’s exactly what should happen.

According to NFL.com’s Albert Breer, the NFL Referees Association resisted the implementation of an accountability system, citing concerns about compensation and job security. Conversely, “the NFL thinks the addition of a large number of officials would provide a better opportunity to more consistently put the best officials at each game.”

With an "environment of accountability" on their side following the new agreement, it is only right that the NFL takes action.