San Francisco 49ers: Putting to Bed Allegations of NFC Championship Being Rigged

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San Francisco 49ers: Putting to Bed Allegations of NFC Championship Being Rigged
Matt Slocum/Associated Press
A recent allegation suggests the NFC Championship game was rigged by the NFL.

Unless you have zero access to information—or could care less for that matter—you are probably well aware of the recent allegation that the 2014 NFC Championship between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks was rigged by the NFL.

The YouTube video, which is not connected to any credible news source and can be viewed here, starts off with text that reads:

NFL has been fixing games since the early 2000s. Players and coaches are not involved, only league officials. Public interest in the NFL is at an all time high, and the past few seasons have seen record TV ratings in several of the playoff games. The incentive to "create" the best possible games is too great for the NFL to pass up.

All of the players and the game being played are of course real, but the outcomes of certain games are "steered" in the desired direction, often in the biggest games. Sometimes the NFL fails when attempting to fix a game, when the desired winner loses, even though all the calls go against them... But usually they are successful.

The NFC championship was decided on the final play. If a team makes ONE MORE PLAY than the other team, usually that team is the winner.

In this game, the team that made far MORE plays was the loser.

The video then goes into a plethora of specific calls and plays that attempt to back up the claim that the officials were trying to deny the 49ers a repeat trip to the Super Bowl.

Conspiracy theorists and vehement San Francisco fans may possibly jump on board with this video and add to the claims that the NFL was behind this entire debacle.

This author has one response to those claims and those who would state the NFL is "fixed."

"No."

Not only no, but heck no.

I could go into greater detail about some of the individual calls that were made during the course of the game.  Yet that analysis was best provided by Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.

Maiocco finishes his analysis with the following text:

Were there some bad calls in the NFC Championship game?  Yes.  Were there some questionable calls?  Sure.  Admittedly, I did not go back through the entire game to see how many close calls went against the Seahawks.  But one that comes to mind is on the game-clinching interception.  Michael Crabtree appeared to get away with a nudge to Richard Sherman’s back.

As Maiocco admits—and as any neutral fan or analyst could point out—there were some bad calls during the course of the game.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
The ruling on the field following the apparent fumble recovery by NaVorro Bowman (right) was a poor call and non-reviewable. Bowman sustained ACL and MCL injuries on the play.

We all know the story.  Any time our team loses, it is often so easy to point out the officiating—or lack thereof.  Blaming the referees is pretty low fruit on the proverbial tree to pick at.

Stocking this up to a conspiracy takes that notion to a whole new level.

Sure, there have been allegations of officials and leagues rigging or altering games for the benefit of one person or, as in this particular case, the entire league.

Case in point, look at some of these allegations that have surrounded the NBA over recent years as provided by Connor Adams Sheets of the International Business Times.

 

Louis Lanzano/Associated Press
Former NBA official Tim Donaghy was accused of gambling on games, which affected his officiating.

Contained therein—and via David Neiwert of Crooksandliars.com—are statements from former NBA referee Tim Donaghy who was dismissed from his job after being accused of gambling on games.  Donaghy noted that the league manipulates games through control over their officiating.

Conspiracy theorists would love to take that one example and state it is a parallel to an even greater problem existing within the NFL.

Herein lies the problem.

Donaghy was one person.  This video claims it is a league-wide issue.  The wider an issue, the greater chance of a potential problem being revealed.

The revealing of the steroid problem in baseball is a perfect comparison.

The video also states at the beginning that the NFL has been fixing games since the early 2000s.  I am sure any conspiracy theorist would claim there is proof, but until any substantial evidence is produced this point is moot.

Sure, it is hard to argue with the notion that the NFL would rather see preeminent teams like Seattle and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. 

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Seattle's No. 1 defense against Denver's No. 1 offense generated plenty of attention before Super Bowl XLVIII.

Without disrespecting any of their respective fanbases, I could see how some may feel a Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and San Diego Chargers—both playoff teams this season—would have hurt ratings compared to what eventually transpired in both conference championships and the Super Bowl.

Before the 49ers took on the Panthers in the NFC Divisional game, this author sat down with Cat Chronicles—a fan-based Carolina weblog that dissects the Panthers in great detail.  One of the topics in the podcast that came about was how the Panthers have not garnered the national attention that other teams receive and Carolina deserves.

Let us grant for a moment that the NFL would rather have high profile teams in championship games.  Sure, the ratings would be better, but is that proof of a conspiracy in and of itself?

No.

In addition, the San Francisco 49ers are also a franchise with plenty of national recognition and a return trip in back-to-back years to the Super Bowl would have been worthy of almost any media attention.

In summation, it is impossible to assume the league "had it out" for the 49ers in this game, even if calls were questionable.

Changing gears a little bit, let us evaluate this from the Seahawks' perspective.

As Maiocco pointed out, he did not go into detail about close calls that went the 49ers' way.  There was a play where Seattle's gunner Jeremy Lane collided with a member of the 49ers' sideline on a special teams play—subsequently drawing a warning, but no fine per Maiocco.

The video makes no mention of this, nor does it mention an apparent missed call on an offensive pass interference call against Michael Crabtree against Richard Sherman on that last 49ers' play per Maiocco.

Conspiracy theorists will argue that these instances were all part of the plan—change the outcome of the game without making it look too obvious.

State your thoughts. Was the NFC Championship Game rigged?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Still, it is too hard to accept any notion that the league is behind all of this.

In short, the video is too vague and lacks sufficient fact aside from one's own interpretation of what transpired on the field.

State the game was poorly called if you so desire, but leave it at that.  Also, do not overlook the fact that San Francisco lost that game in the fourth quarter—turning the ball over three times in any quarter almost always spells doom.  There is no conspiracy behind that.

There shouldn't be one for the officiating, and the league as a whole, either.

 

Supplementary information provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com.

 

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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