Les: Bill Leavy Is a Future Trivia Answer

The MS&LL host and columnist offers his take on Super Bowl officiating...

Super Bowl XXXIX will always be remembered for Janet Jackson's 'equipment malfunction', while Super Bowl XL will be remembered for the referee's malfunctions, which now stands at a total of four. 

Las Vegas oddsmakers are up in arms because the over/under on bad decisions was four and a half, and for some unknown reason, one of Jerramy Stevens 'dropped' passes should have been ruled a completed pass and fumble, which was recovered by the Steelers.  Maybe they ruled that, because it was Stevens, it therefore was an uncatchable ball.

Maybe it's just me, but I've seen an awful lot of NFL games in recent years, and I usually notice things like this, but I've got to be honest with you --- Sunday's game was the first that I've ever seen or heard of Bill Leavy (no relation to Marv Levy, who's had some bad Super Bowl games, too), who was the referee.  These guys are supposed to get placed in the game based on their superlative rating throughout the season, but I can't remember this guy in any game that I watched.

For years there has been a movement to make NFL officials full-time employees, but I don't see how that will help.  Unfortunately, most of the refs we see are too old, too out-of-shape, and too slow to keep up with the speed of the game.  I don't know if those things a fixable, but I do have a suggestion for the NFL in this regard.

I have said for years that the biggest problem with the replay system is that it is too easy to fall back on the 'conclusive evidence to over-rule' clause, even though it is obvious that the wrong call has been made on the field.  My suggestion would change the way the refs should look at situations.  Basically, I envision situations where there should be no hurry to blow a whistle to stop a play, letting the play 'play itself out', which would allow the referee to make a decision with help from the cameras.  For example, the official closest to the Stevens 'drop' should have 'swallowed' his whistle, allowing Pittsburgh to recover the ball.  After the play ended, then the replay (or a meeting of all of the officials) could decide what really happened.  As of now, once the whistle is blown, the play is over. 

The same thing could have been done on Ben Roethlisberger's 'touchdown'.  The whistle could have been blown to end the play, when forward progress was stopped, but a touchdown did not have to be signaled.  Because it was signaled, there wasn't conclusive evidence to overturn it.  But if the call was in doubt, no signal should have been made, and then, it could go to instant replay, where, clearly in this case, the touchdown would not have counted.

I know you are saying that this new approach takes too much time, but I have the answer to that, too.  Take the decision away from the referee, and give it to a qualified 'ref' upstairs.  In a matter of seconds, the proper decision could be made, and I don't think anyone would have a problem with that.

The stoppage of play by a whistle, and the lack of conclusive evidence to overturn many calls are the biggest problems that arise on judgment calls.  If the officials could re-train themselves to 'swallow' their whistles at certain times in a game, those problems could be minimized.  If this system were in place now, we wouldn't hear Joey Porter tell us that the refs did everything they could to help Peyton Manning get to the Super Bowl, and Mike Holmgren wouldn't be able to say that he didn't realize he had to prepare to play against the referees.

Actually, Bill Leavy and his officiating crew should have gone public blasting Holmgren for his terrible clock management skills in the closing moments of each half of Sunday's game.  If Holmgren paid more attention to that instead of the officials, there might have been a different outcome to the game.  According to Al Michaels, soon to move over to NBC's Sunday Night games, Holmgren went to Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen in the off-season and said that he (Holmgren) might not be the right guy for the coaching job.  Based on what we saw at the end of each half, he might have been right.

Just a thought---is Romeo Crennel reluctant to name Charlie Frye as his starting QB for next year, because he wants a competitive camp, or because he's not sure that Frye is the right guy for the job?  If Frye is the right guy, wouldn't he be better off knowing that right now?


Les Levine is the host of 'More Sports & Les Levine', which can be seen M-F from 6-7pm and 11-midnight on Adelphia Channel 15 in northeast Ohio. He is also the lead Sunday columnist in the Lake County News-Herald and Lorain Journal.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

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