It’s a question that always pops up every so often. Fans have always doubted the integrity of the NFL, and its’ officiating, and that likely won’t change anytime soon.
Two weeks ago, many noticed how referee Clete Blakeman was the first one to walk up, and congratulate Tom Brady after New England’s AFC championship victory that propelled them to their second consecutive Super Bowl. One could also argue how the Pats were only called for one penalty all game vs Jacksonville. Meanwhile, multiple game-changing penalties were called on the Jags. Not getting too much into this game specifically, there is one moment that should be brought up…
Late in the first half, the Jaguars had a 3rd and 7 in New England territory, as keeping possession was vital to not only try to extend their lead, but to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands in the final minutes of the half…
Bortles snaps the ball, he surveys the field for a few seconds (no whistles at this point), Bortles finds Mercedes Lewis for a huge ten yard grab that extends the Jacksonville drive in New England territory…
Wait… Hold on… ‘Before the snap, delay of game’ was uttered by head official, Clete Blakeman to the crowds delight. So the problem here isn’t that a ‘delay of game’ call was called, the problem here is the officials allowed the play to play out, and then after Jacksonville converted, they decided to embrace the call. Huh? How is that possible?
It’s almost like they played a, ‘wait and see’ game here. Do you really think they call that if Jacksonville didn’t convert on third down? No way. It was a huge moment that was simply brushed under the rug. Unsurprisingly, on 3rd and 12, Jacksonville fails to convert, Pats get the ball back, and score right before the half.
This is the play fans should be curious about. Not the penalty mismatch, not the fact that a referee was first to congratulate Tom Brady after the game, it was this play right here that set the tone for the rest of the game. For those who wish to see this curious moment, check it out here.
So back to the original question, does the NFL rig games? The NFL is a business first. They want to make as much revenue as possible, so one would be naive to think they would rather have a Jacksonville market over a Boston market in the Super Bowl. This is just an example.
It’s the same reason Dallas seems to get a lot of calls go their way, but Dallas loses, they aren’t invincible. It’s the same reason a New York market gets favored over a market such as Minnesota, or Kansas City. Which market brings in more revenue? Do the Giants or Jets always make the conference championship? No. Meaning, just because you get a few calls in your favor doesn’t mean the league is handing you any specific game. They might be quietly rooting for you for revenue purposes, but more often than not, they don’t just hand teams games.
So here’s the verdict, does the NFL potentially try to inconspicuously effect outcomes? Absolutely. The AFC championship is a more recent example of that.
Does the NFL rig the league completely? Absolutely not. If that were the case, the NFL would have ‘made sure’ it was a Steelers/Pats’ AFC title, rather than a ‘Jags/Pats’ AFC title.
It should also be noted, other leagues do the same thing. Again, they don’t blatantly prevent a team from winning, or keep a team from losing. They do keep an eye on what teams bring in the most revenue, and make certain calls and/or decisions accordingly.