Dolphins switch back to Fitz for game in Buffalo
Roger Goodell weighed in Wednesday on the shoot-show of an ending to Monday night’s NFL game in Green Bay, where on-field officials practically stole victory from the Detroit Lions in the Packers’ last-second 23-22 win.
To close the owners’ two-day fall meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, the NFL commissioner dropped a few interesting comments and news nuggets:
- On the Packers-Lions debacle: “Officiating is always a focus for us,” he said. “You never want to see a game where people are talking about officials afterward. It was a great football game played by two great teams … It’s tough to be in that situation, so we have to do everything we can to improve officiating.” Goodell was asked about his level of confidence in senior VP of officiating Al Riveron’s ability to work out whatever issues may exist right now in his ranks of 122 game officials. Goodell did not answer directly, other than to say, “Al and his team and (NFL executive VP of football operations) Troy (Vincent) and everyone, we’re all focusing on how we continue to prepare our officials.”
- On the tiny percentage of pass-interference reviews that result in an overturn: “I think (coaches) understood that replay was not going to correct every pass-interference close call. That is … we’re not re-officiating these plays. So the thought process was to correct the obvious and clear error … I think it’s settling out where we expected it to.” Problem is, the NFL’s interpretation of “obvious and clear” since the preseason has gradually become so hard-line as to basically mean “unless a player swings a baseball bat at the knees of a rival player.”
- On the idea of a draft lottery being instituted to discourage bad teams from tanking for the No. 1 overall pick, Good said: “The good news for us is we don’t see that. I don’t think the league has ever been more competitive than it is today … The competitiveness of our game obviously is critical. I don’t think that’s solved with a lottery.”
- Goodell said the league is digging deeper to put in perspective news released Tuesday about concussions suffered in the preseason just past. The good news is that such brain injuries reported in practices dropped 33%, from 45 in total to 30. The bad news, the league said, is concussions suffered in August games shot up 44%, from 34 in 2018 to 49 this year.
- Goodell confirmed reports that a 17-game regular season is being discussed with the players union, as part of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement to go into effect in 2021. Goodell said the regular season still would start three days following Labour Day, but the Super Bowl would be pushed forward one week further into February. Expanded rosters would be possible in a 17-game schedule. “We haven’t taken anything” off the table, Goodell said.
- The commissioner said he isn’t concerned “at all” about visiting fans swamping Los Angeles Chargers home games at Dignity Health Sports Park, as Pittsburgh Steelers fans did last Sunday (and as San Francisco 49ers fans similarly did up the highway at the Los Angeles Rams’ home, Memorial Coliseum). Goodell said it’s no judgment on the Chargers franchise’s viability in L.A. “I think that’s the reality of what you see in a lot of stadiums around the league,” he said of visiting fans gobbling up tickets. “Secondary ticketing is a big issue now. We have certain teams that travel better than others … We’ll continue to see more of that.”
- Goodell said the league still is investigating self-unemployed wide receiver Antonio Brown, after a former female trainer of his filed a civil lawsuit last month claiming he sexually assaulted and harassed her over two years. “Our folks have been working diligently on that,” Goodell said. “There’s a lot of material to go through.”
DOLPHINS SWITCH TO FITZ
The dilemma for the 0-5 Miami Dolphins — whether or not you believe they’re trying hard to tank for the No. 1 overall draft pick — is who to play at quarterback for the remainder of this season?
Place-holding veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who turns 37 next month, has performed better than second-year Josh Rosen. “Fitz” has started twice, completed 56% of his throws for two touchdowns and four interceptions for a 60.1 passer rating. Yeah, pretty bad. But consider Rosen has started three games, completed 53% of his throws for one touchdown and five interceptions for a 52.0 passer rating — even worse.
It’s obvious Dolphins head coach Brian Flores ideally would like to play Rosen the rest of the way. Just last week Flores announced that he had “settled” on the 22-year-old for the remainder of 2019, only to bench him this past Sunday for playing so awfully against the then winless Washington Redskins. Fitz came in for the fourth quarter, down 17-3, and nearly pulled out a victory.
Flores on Monday said he was sticking with Rosen — then changed his mind on Wednesday, announcing that ex-Bills QB Fitzpatrick will start Sunday afternoon at Buffalo.
“Kind of came to that conclusion over the last couple of days,” Flores said. “We feel that was the best thing for this team and it’ll give us the best opportunity for this team to go up into a tough environment and try to pull out a win.
“And we do that on a weekly basis. What’s the best grouping, set of players, offence, defence, kicking game, to help try to win the game? We felt that was the case this week.”
TANNEHILL IT IS
If you missed it Tuesday night, the Tennessee Titans announced that Ryan Tannehill will start at quarterback Sunday vs. the visiting Chargers. Marcus Mariota, for the first time in his five-year pro career, has been benched.
Newly acquired Ravens CB Marcus Peters, the ex-Chief and now ex-Ram, will play on Sunday at Seattle, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said … How serious were complications following QB Alex Smith’s nasty broken leg last season? He says he has had 17 surgeries on it. Eesh.
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