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Fisher says refs get too much blame
By PAUL KUHARSKY
Even his critics around the NFL admit that Titans Coach Jeff Fisher knows the rulebook as well as any of his peers.
Fisher, who is co-chairman of the NFL Competition Committee, conceded yesterday that the league had a tough weekend officiating-wise on Jan. 14-15 in the Divisional Playoffs. But he said he thinks much of the debate over officiating in Super Bowl XL was a result of the extensive media coverage of the game.
"When you have the amount of coverage that the game is getting in comparison to 10 years ago, they have to find more and more things to talk about," he said. "Because of the enormous amount of coverage the game is getting, the officiating is getting scrutinized now more so than it has in the past."
Fisher said a Super Bowl referee and crew want to call a penalty-free game, but know they can expect every call to be inspected and analyzed.
"People come back and say, 'You can call that in a lot of different situations where it's not called.' Well maybe it's not seen," he said.
The coach has served on the competition committee, which guides the league through rule changes and discusses ways to improve the game, since 2000. He's been co-chairman since 2001.
Fisher said he believes attention on officials increased early in the 2005 season when penalties were up. He said that in the end, however, those numbers basically evened out.
A supporter of the replay challenge system, Fisher pointed to a fourth-quarter play in the Super Bowl that was initially ruled a fumble but was overturned on replay review as a classic example of the system at its best.
"But we're not drawing attention to that," he said. "There are always going to be calls that are missed, there are always going to be great calls that are never highlighted. But there are always going to be issues with officiating. That's the human element and that's part of the game.
"I believe the officiating department at the league level has done everything it can to improve the quality of the department, through its grading criteria, through its teaching and evaluation process.
"When you compare officiating now to officiating five and 10 years ago, I believe we'd say the officiating has improved."
Fisher on some of the controversial calls in Super Bowl XL:
? Offensive pass interference against Seattle wide receiver Darrell Jackson that washed away a 16-yard touchdown catch: "Offensive pass interference is called when a receiver extends the arm and initiates contact resulting in separation between he and the defender. In my opinion that was the correct call. Now the difficulty with the call is you certainly can go in and look at other instances where there is separation where it's not called. Well, oftentimes it's not seen. But as the interpretation of the rule is concerned, that is offensive pass interference."
? Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger's touchdown plunge that was upheld by replay review: "The issue is not officiating, the issue is replay. The call went to review and because there was not indisputable evidence under the hood, the ruling on the field stood. Most times in a challenge situation that's going to be the case. It's not going to be reversed because there is not overwhelming, indisputable evidence.
"In the official's opinion the ball crossed the plane. We can't say based on the replays we got on the network feed that it didn't. Maybe it didn't, but you can't say that. It wasn't a situation where the ball ended up a yard short of the goal line and it was a disastrous type call. That was a very close call."
? Holding call against Seattle OT Sean Locklear that washed away an 18-yard pass: "By definition it's a hold. There is contact, there was a grab, there was restriction." ?