11 Worst Referee Screw Jobs in NFL History
The job of an NFL referee isn't an easy one. Even with all the advancements in instant replay, there is still the opportunity for human error.
While in most other jobs, human error would hardly cause an uproar, in the NFL with the game on the line, human error causes deep resentment toward a referee that lasts for years upon years.
Here are the 11 worst referee screw jobs in NFL History.
11. Calvin Johnson Caught That Ball
In Week 1 of the 2010 NFL season, the young and promising Detroit Lions had a great chance to beat the Chicago Bears.
With little time left on the clock, Shaun Hill aired it out to Calvin Johnson, who came down with the ball in the end zone to give the Lions a late lead.
However, the catch was nullified wrongly because of a ridiculous rule.
The Bears held on to win the game, which was the start of a fantastic season for them, while the Lions' loss sent their season on a downward spiral.
10. Cutler Fumbles...Maybe?
I understand the importance of a whistle for a referee, but watching this play makes me want to ban them from the sport forever.
Due to a quick whistle from the referee, Jay Cutler's obvious fumble was called an incomplete pass and was unable to be reviewed.
What would have ended the game allowed the Denver Broncos another play which ultimately led to a victory.
I've been trying to come up with a better solution to a whistle, but all I can think of is an Air Horn. I haven't decided whether that would be better or worse just yet.
9. Vinny Testaverde's Helmet Is the Football
Vincent Laforet/Getty Images
Nearing the end of the 1998 season, the New York Jets trailed the Seattle Seahawks by six points.
They were facing a 4th-and-goal with little time left.
The ball was snapped to Vinny Testaverde, who ran a quarterback sneak into the end zone, giving the Jets the lead with a little under a minute remaining.
Unfortunately, further review showed that the only part of Testaverde that actually crossed the goal line was his helmet.
However, without instant replay available, the Jets won the game and sent the Seattle Seahawks home with a losing record.
8. Kordell Stewart Wasn't Legal to Catch That Ball
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
There is an NFL rule that basically states that a receiver can't go out of bounds and be the first person to touch the ball after coming back inbounds.
I don't understand the rule, but it's a rule.
Unfortunately for the Indianapolis Colts, the referees of their 1995 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers had a mental lapse concerning that rule.
Receiver/quarterback Kordell Stewart stepped out of bounds and took a few steps before catching a five-yard touchdown pass that gave Pittsburgh the lead.
While it wasn't a game-winning reception or anything, it was still illegal.
Indianapolis eventually lost the game, which sent them into a tailspin that ultimately landed them Peyton Manning. I guess it didn't turn out that bad for them.
7. Jerome Bettis Calls Tails...Or Heads
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Whenever I see footage of this referee blunder or hear about it, I can't help but laugh.
A game against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day in 1998 went into overtime.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had the opportunity to call the coin toss, and Jerome Bettis wisely called tails.
It's just too bad that the head referee, Phil Luckett, thought he heard Bettis say heads.
The coin landed on tails, Detroit got the ball, won the game and the Steelers endured a losing season.
My only question is if it's illegal for referees to need hearing aids?
6. Music City Miracle
While the "Music City Miracle" will be debated until the end of times, that will never take away from the awesomeness of the play.
Seriously, this play was straight out of Hollywood.
With under 20 seconds left in the game, the Buffalo Bills had just kicked a field goal to take the lead and were ready to kick off to the Tennessee Titans.
Buffalo kicked the ball, which was received by Lorenzo Neal, who handed the ball off to Frank Wycheck.
Wycheck ran across the field and lobbed a pass to the other sideline into the waiting hands of Kevin Dyson.
Dyson ran the ball in for a 75-yard touchdown as the clock expired and gave the Titans a playoff victory.
Whether Wycheck's "pitch" was actually a lateral pass depends on which team you are rooting for.
5. The Bert Emanuel Rule
When the NFL comes up with a new rule to make sure referees can't make the same mistake again, that is basically the definition of screwing up a call.
In the 2000 playoffs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on the road against the high-powered offense of the St. Louis Rams.
With the Buccaneers down 11-6 with under a minute remaining, Bert Emanuel made a 13-yard reception deep in St. Louis' territory to give Tampa Bay a real shot at pulling the upset.
Emanuel had complete control of the ball, which resulted in a completed pass being the call on the field.
However, the booth wanted to review the play, and under further review, they saw that the nose touched the ground at the end of the reception, which resulted in the play being called an incomplete pass.
This horrible replay call forced the NFL to redefine what constitutes as a reception in a game.
4. Jerry Rice Was Possibly Down Before Fumbling
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
There is no doubt that Jerry Rice is the greatest receiver to ever play the game of football.
There is also no doubt that during the 1998 playoffs, Rice clearly fumbled the ball before being down against the Green Bay Packers.
However, Rice was called down before fumbling the football, which gave the San Francisco 49ers the ball back. On the next play,
Steve Young found Terrell Owens in the end zone for the game-winning pass.
As a Green Bay fan, I cry every single time I see Rice fumble that ball.
3. Mike Renfro Called Out of Bounds
For those of you who don't know who Mike Renfro is, he was an undersized wide receiver for the Houston Oilers in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Renfro's career wasn't anything spectacular, but he was part of one of the worst referee screw jobs in NFL history.
Back in the 1979 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Renfro made a nice catch in the back of the end zone.
Even though Renfro clearly had both feet inbounds, and control of the ball, the officials still called the pass incomplete.
The Oilers ended up losing the game by a score of 27-13
2. Immaculate Reception Wasn't That Immaculate
This play is one of the greatest and most controversial plays in NFL history.
With 22 seconds remaining in a game against the Oakland Raiders, Terry Bradshaw launches a pass down the middle of the field.
The ball hits off someone, bounces back to Franco Harris, and is run back for a touchdown.
Where the controversy and poor officiating comes into play is who the football bounced off of.
Had it bounced off a player from the Raiders, everything would be fine.
However, if it bounced off a player from the Pittsburgh Steelers—which it very well might have—the play should have been called dead.
The right call to this play may never be answered.
1. The Infamous Tuck Rule
The "Tuck Rule Game" wins the award for biggest screw job by a referee in NFL history, and here is why.
First, had the call been in favor of the Oakland Raiders, the New England Patriots would have lost this playoff game. That loss could have easily derailed the eventual dynasty put together by New England.
Secondly, the game was played in New England, there was little time on the clock and it was an extremely questionable call.
With that close of a call, the ruling on the field should have been withheld, which means the Raiders would have won.
I'm no master of NFL rules, but the "Tuck Rule" seems rather ridiculous and probably impossible to call correctly every time it happens.