GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers didn’t exactly apologize, and his smile wasn’t audible on the radio Thursday. But if you read between the lines, you could tell: The Green Bay Packers quarterback kind of wished he’d have been a little more subtle like Jordy Nelson and a little less demonstratively angry about coach Mike McCarthy tossing the red challenge flag last Sunday – and nearly costing the Packers a touchdown in the process.
Speaking on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Thursday, Rodgers admitted to being “obviously frustrated” when he saw McCarthy toss the challenge flag on what had been ruled a James Jones fumble at the goal line – a play that was by rule going to automatically be reviewed because it was a turnover.
After McCarthy threw the flag, Nelson discreetly went and picked it up and tried to hide it in his belt. Rodgers, meanwhile, came bounding past Nelson and could be seen screaming at McCarthy for his mental mistake.
McCarthy made a similar mistake in August with the replacement officials during a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, when returner Randall Cobb fumbled and McCarthy challenged where the Browns player who recovered the fumble had stepped out of bounds. Afterward, McCarthy said he hoped it was something both coaches and officials could “learn from,” although at the time, it sounded as though McCarthy thought it was only a 15-yard penalty for throwing the flag on a play already set to be reviewed.
The rule, of course, made national headlines when Detroit coach Jim Schwartz threw his challenge flag on a Houston Texans touchdown on Thanksgiving Day, when runner Justin Forsett clearly should have been ruled down. Instead, because Schwartz threw the flag, the play stood, even though there was incontrovertible video evidence that the call should have been overturned. NFL rules say that a replay review cannot be initiated after a coach throws his red flag on a play already set to be reviewed.
McCarthy only got off scot-free on his mistake at the Metrodome because referee Mike Carey claimed that the replay review had already been initiated when McCarthy tossed his flag. In the end, the fumble was reversed and Jones was awarded a touchdown.
Much like he did when asked about the incident after the game, Rodgers spoke mostly about his frustration with Carey’s crew blowing the call initially than about his frustration with McCarthy for throwing the flag.
“From my perspective, where I was at when I saw the ball thrown and caught and (Jones) was breaking a tackle, to me it was either a down-by-contact, short-of-the-end-zone (situation) or a touchdown,” Rodgers said. “I have watched enough football since I was a kid, been around enough and played enough where that should have been the call.
“I said after the game, I know (the officials) are airing on the side of letting plays continue knowing you can review a turnover or a scoring play; however, that looked nothing like a fumble. It just didn’t. (Jones had) an arm outstretched, an elbow down, where is the ball at when the elbow is down – all of us who watch football have seen that play a number of times. There was no reason for that to be called a fumble.
“So I’m over talking to the referee, and the back judge comes in and he’s the one that actually calls fumble-touchback. (And I) can’t believe it. … I asked the ref, ‘You’re going to review it, are we able to get a touchdown out of this?’ He said, ‘Yes, we are going to review this,’ and (that) they could overturn it and make it a touchdown.
“So I’m thinking, ‘Great.’ (And then) I look over and see the flag thrown (by McCarthy), and obviously (I’m) frustrated by that. Jordy makes a good play, puts it in his pocket – obviously everybody saw it – but it had already been buzzed down (for review by the replay official), so we were able to get that thing into the end zone.”
Fullback John Kuhn, who grabbed Rodgers on the sideline after he ran past McCarthy yelling, said he didn’t think the incident was a major issue.
“I love this team because every single guy on this team has the passion for the game that exudes out of him on every single play. So when I see something like that, I know it’s (Rodgers’) passion and drive to win coming out,” Kuhn said in the locker room Thursday. “Sometimes, it just takes somebody from an outsider’s perspective to let the reflection come back, to let you know, ‘Hey, let’s take a second, let’s let our emotions cool and then let’s address the situation.’”
Return to: Jason Wilde Blog