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Why does the NFL struggle to offer apologies to the Dolphins and their fans for poor calls?

MIAMI GARDENS — There are dynamics playing out in Indianapolis this week over the Colts’ loss to the Cleveland Browns that will appear to don’t have anything to do with the Dolphins, when the truth is they’ve plenty to do with them.

Colts owner Jim Irsay goes to get fined for the audacity of telling fans what they already know. Officials blew a critical call Sunday. The NFL admitted it, no less than based on Irsay. So what’s the issue? Easy: The NFL likes to brush mistakes under the factitious turf. It could admit mistakes to the clubs but to not the general public. To not the paying (and wagering) fans.

This brings us to Sunday night when the Dolphins were on the short end of a 10-0 decision against the Philadelphia Eagles. No, that wasn’t the ultimate rating. It’s the variety of penalties against the Dolphins compared with the spotless game Philly played, no less than based on game officials. Only six other times in NFL history has one team been called for double-digit penalties while the opposite got off scot-free.

By not coming clean, the NFL is largely telling South Floridians they didn’t see what their eyes told them they saw. Cornerback James Bradberry’s handcrafted contact with receiver Cedrick Wilson’s facemask as Wilson was attempting to haul in a critical fourth-down pass by Tua Tagovailoa. Officials had their alternative of flagging Bradberry for pass interference or a facemask penalty. They select Option C: no call in any respect. This despite contact sufficient to make Wilson’s head twist. Had officials performed their job, the Dolphins would have had a primary down.

The theme continued throughout the night because the Dolphins piled up 70 yards in penalties, the Eagles nada. Plus, Philadelphia received three free first downs.

At this point, a very important disclaimer: I’m not one to bellyache about officiating. I consider calls are likely to balance out over the course of a season. Surely Dolphins fans wouldn’t be giving it a second thought if Miami had been on the suitable side of that 10-0 discrepancy. Plus, any Dolphins fan believing the calls were why Miami lost 31-17 (yes, that’s in points) is barking up the unsuitable tree. Although the Wilson call seemed critical on the time, it didn’t resolve the sport.

None of that actually is the purpose. The purpose is, why the shortage of transparency? The league might think it makes officiating look weak to confess errors, when the truth is admitting your mistake makes you look strong.

Mike McDaniel says Dolphins send a report back to the NFL each week. Teams routinely send the league any gripes they’ve over calls the previous weekend. Good luck getting any Dolphins coach, including Mike McDaniel, to elaborate on which calls they flag (bad pun intended), let alone what the NFL’s response is.

“Every week we submit a report, and they convey us back their ‘upon further review, X, Y or Z,’” McDaniel said.

As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted, “Team officials are prohibited from commenting publicly on those discussions.”

Irsay didn’t care, not after a few late calls, including a pass interference penalty against Indy on a clearly uncatchable ball. He’s willing to pay whatever the price to no less than give fans the satisfaction of knowing someone up there knows they screwed up.

McDaniel said he’s philosophical concerning the whole thing, mentioning it won’t change past results.

“So I’d as well get mad at thunder,” he said.

In the warmth of the moment, it’s tough to maintain emotions out of it. What about within the moment? After Wilson screwed his head back on, got up, and saw no flag, wasn’t McDaniel hot?

“It’s frustrating in the intervening time that there’s any discrepancy in personal opinion versus what happens,” he said. “And I try to attenuate how long that’s to the nth degree. Simply because emotions factor into decisions, and I feel like personally (aggrieved), that’s irresponsible of me as a decision-maker.”

More: Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, Xavien Howard knock being on ‘Hard Knocks’

It’s a noble option to take a look at it, one which many/most/virtually all coaches and players find easier said than done.

“I’m sure there can be a scenario that other coaches have experienced where perhaps the work of an entirety of a season, something falls short and it’s within the moment of truth when the sport’s on the road, something doesn’t go your way — I’ll leave room for that scenario,” McDaniel said. “But that hasn’t happened to me.”

However it has happened, notably costing the Recent Orleans Saints a visit to the Super Bowl in 2019 when an obvious pass interference penalty was missed within the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Colts’ loss to the Browns didn’t involve those sorts of stakes, but to Irsay, it didn’t matter.

“The NFL admits and understands that they didn’t make the right calls at the top of Sunday’s Colts/Browns game,” he wrote on social media. “I consider we’d like to institute Easy Replay for all calls, including Penalties, within the last two minutes of All Games.”

Good luck getting that passed. It should be noted that other leagues have been upfront about admitting errors. NBA referees wrote on social media that a blown call in a January Lakers-Celtics game was “gut-wrenching for us.” A Warriors-Celtics game also produced a mea culpa, while the NHL in 2021 said on-ice officials made the right call by allowing a Sabres goal against the Rangers, however the league’s review team erred in overturning that call.

More: How is Chase Claypool learning the Miami Dolphins offense?

The NFL has taken steps toward transparency in officiating. There was a time when officials called a penalty, the referee gave hand signals indicating what the infraction was but never announced right into a microphone which player committed the offense. They never gave Ed Hochulian explanations for complex situations. There wasn’t an “expedited review” system through which the league whispers within the referee’s ear that he needs to repair an error on the fly. And, after all, there wasn’t the coaches’ red flag.

Today, controversial calls can also trigger a mechanism through which one pool reporter in each NFL stadium can request clarification on controversial calls postgame. At Dolphins games, that’s my job, one I’ve exercised just a few times over time. While the pinnacle of officiating will explain the rationale behind a call, what he won’t do is pass judgment on whether the decision was correct.

Mere minutes after a game, I don’t have an issue with that. But on Monday? After everyone has had time to exhale and, as McDaniel recommends, take emotions out of it?

It was nice, years ago, when Elton John told us sorry appears to be the toughest word.

Today, it doesn’t work so well for Roger Goodell.

Sunday’s game
Patriots (2-5) at Dolphins (5-2)
1 p.m., CBS; NFL+, Paramount+ and YouTube by subscription outside South Florida.


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