Let the Players Decide the Game


The title above is in quotation marks because I see athletes and fans use the term to mean something different from the apparent meaning.

Of course, the players should decide the game, but they should decide the game based on rules. It would make no sense to say “let the players decide the game” if it meant that an ineligible receiver (in football) could receive a pass, that a tackle could use his helmet as a spear into the chest of an opposing player, or any number of other rules violations. Yet players and fans often use the term to mean that small violations should be allowed.

This issue came up in the Kansas City Chiefs’ loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. With just over a minute left, KC quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw the football to Travis Kelce, who caught it and ran down the field. As he was about to be tackled, Kelce threw the ball backwards to Kadarius Toney, who ran into the end zone and scored a touchdown. Or so we thought. But the play was nullified because a line judge had thrown the flag right at the start of the play when Toney was lined up offside. Here’s the video.

Mahomes and others argued that Toney’s lining up offside didn’t give the Chiefs any advantage. That’s true.

But here’s the problem. Line judges, unless they miss it, are pretty much always going to call offsides. And notice in the video that the flag was thrown right away before the play evolved.

So, for Patrick Mahomes to get his way, he would have to contend one of two things: (1) the line judge should wait until the play is over before throwing the flag on an offside call, something I have never seen happen in years of watching football, or (2) the line judge or another referee, after the play had ended, should have recognized what a great play it was and gone over and picked up the flag, making it a no-call.

With either of those options, the refs, not the players, would be deciding the game, and not in a good way.

The reality is that one player, Kadarius Toney, did decide the game.

The pic above is of Mahomes yelling at the ref.



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