Mike McCarthy had no qualms about the officials hitting him with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty Thursday night for throwing his replay-challenge flag on a turnover play that was to be automatically reviewed anyway.
The Green Bay Packers’ coach suggested after their preseason loss to the Browns that a communication breakdown with the officials prompted him to challenge the play, which was whether the Browns’ Emmanuel Stephens stepped out of bounds at the Packers’ 47 while returning a recovered fumble deeper into Packers territory.
But he agreed with the penalty called again him.
“It’s probably good that it happened,” McCarthy said in his post-game press conference Thursday night. “We talked about it before the game, they wanted to make an example of somebody so I cooperated. The reality of it is the rule book, it’s the correct call. But hopefully they can use that situation to talk about the mechanics of how it unfolded. Frankly I’m not going to get into it because I talked about it for four series with the referees, so hopefully we’re all on the same page.”
McCarthy didn’t detail the communication issue, so it’s unclear what he meant. In the offseason, the NFL added the automatic review on turnover plays so coaches no longer need challenge them, but the review is done by a replay official in the press box, not by the referee at the replay booth on the field. Starting last season, all scoring plays also are automatically reviewed in the press box.
When a coach challenges a ruling, the referee reviews it on the field. It’s unclear whether McCarthy was unsure whether the press-box review would include determining whether Stephens stepped out of bounds, or would rule only on whether the fumble would stand. Regardless, when he threw the challenge flag he was automatically penalized 15 yards.
Having replacement officials instead of the regular officials, who are locked out by the NFL while the sides negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, probably was a factor in any miscommunication.
“We actually had the same situation earlier in the game on Cleveland’s turnover,” McCarthy said. “In the process of how the turnover is being reviewed, on whether the (referee) is going to go to the booth or not, and the time frames and things like that. Frankly I don’t have a problem with (the penalty) happening. It put our defense in a bad spot and obvioulsy helped with the field position for cleveland, but I think it’s definitely something that people can learn about. To me the most important aspect of officiating in the league from a head coach’s perspective is they have to communicate. Well hell, you want them to get the calls right, you want them to do their jobs no doubt. But the communication, nobody wants the call that’s going to change the game.”
Reach Dougherty at email@example.com or via Twitter @PeteDougherty.