This past weekend Tony Dungy, among others, called out the NFL for inconsistency after a throwaway by quarterback Kenny Pickett against the Cleveland Browns wasn’t called for intentional grounding. Dungy even went so far as to indirectly link this to the one Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was flagged for against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Before I break out the evidence, let’s get my opinion out of the way. I used to do a thing on penalties called the “BS meter” — which ranked flags on how legitimate they were. From 1-10, the higher the rating the more “BS” the call was. The one on Allen I would rank as a 7 or 8 BS rating. If they had called the one on Pickett, I would rate it as a 9.
For a more thorough review of the flags versus the Bengals, check out my full penalty recap here. I stated then and will reiterate now that Allen’s flag was a bogus call. I don’t think he was facing an imminent loss of yardage due to pressure, but it’s crucial to this conversation to acknowledge that this standard is a subjective one. Now for some facts, starting with Dungy calling out the NFL.
So to cut to the chase, here’s why calling Pickett for intentional grounding would be even more bogus than the Allen call was. That pocket is pristine. Even if we acknowledge that “imminent loss of yardage” is a subjective criteria to some extent, it’s pretty clear that Pickett isn’t facing it. But to drill that home more, here’s a side by side of the point of throws on a convenient slider.
Again, I don’t think Allen’s flag was legitimate, but looking at the rule, he’s far closer to “imminent loss of yardage” than Pickett was. They have similar amounts of “room” — but Allen is facing an edge defender coming free. The Browns are all still thoroughly engaged with the offensive line.
That said, screaming into the void that is NFL officiating responses about the Pickett call shouldn’t be what we want in the first place. There was wide consensus that the officials screwed up with the Allen call. Doubling down and making a worse mistake with this Pickett play wouldn’t resolve the issue at all, but exacerbate it.
To be fair, Dungy’s ploy is likely more to get the NFL to openly admit the Allen call was a mistake. Good luck on that. The only acknowledgement you’ll get will be slow. It will come with years’ worth of plays similar to Allen’s that aren’t called building a body of evidence.
That body of evidence starts with this play. By not pulling out a flag, the NFL has begun quietly admitting that the call on Allen was the wrong one.