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Readers share their thoughts on recent NFL officiating

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor argues a call with referee Ronald Torbert (62) during during the second half of the NFL AFC Championship playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023 in Kansas City, Mo.Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

As the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs prepare to face off for Super Bowl LVII, many football fans and sports commentators are criticizing the NFL’s officiating during the NFC and AFC championship games, with many questioning the coaches’ play calling and the referees’ penalty decisions.

After the hashtag #NFLRigged began trending on social media, we asked our readers to share their thoughts on the controversial results of Sunday’s games.

Here’s what they had to say:

“The officials have to realize that people tune in to watch the game. Not them officiating the game. Every fan would rather things be settled on the field than be decided by the refs. The last penalty was justified because Mahomes was out of bounds and that gets called every time. There were however lots of questionable calls in the fourth quarter like holding calls or tick tack flags that could have been non calls. The pace of the game was slow and disjointed. Overall I have been disappointed with the playoff games. Last year they were great, this year, not so much. Having the officiating be an issue, and over officiating, is just wrong for the fans of the sport.”-Brian B., West Bridgewater, MA

“Watching these playoff games has to make you wonder if ‘the fix is in.’ It’s either that or the NFL has the most inept and incompetent officiating in pro sports!”-Kenneth L., Lakeville, MA


“If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say the refs were determined to see that the Chiefs won. Since I’m not, the only conclusion I can come to is that NFL officiating is blatantly incompetent.”-Jim A., North Kingstown, RI

“Officiating has been awful all season; it just gets amplified in the playoffs. It’s long overdue to start implementing technology to assist. In the AFC game, KC’s player extended the ball before going down, the officials marked it short, and overturned it on replay. There appeared to be no clear evidence to do this, but there is technology that would have. As a fan, it’s getting harder and harder to watch this mess, when it could easily be rectified using sensors.”-Kip K., Sudbury, MA


“The 3rd down fiasco during the Bengals’, Chiefs’ game was a travesty!! The officials actually gave KC a do over after KC failed to get the necessary yards for a 1st down. KC would have been forced to punt the ball to Cincinnati. Instead, KC got to try a second time on 3rd down and ended up getting the necessary yards to continue. This appalling call by the officials changed the outcome of a Division Titled playoff game!!! Absolutely unconscionable!!! Referees’ are there to call fouls and keep the play clean. In this instance, they gave an advantage to one team and changed the course of the game! My thoughts are that there should be a group of senior officials, in a booth, who watch over the games and they should be able to converse with each other to hold the field officials accountable for their calls. When they see an egregiously bad call they need to step in and make the correct call. Seems to me that this would be an easy and fair fix. I am not saying that they need to interfere with every call. Just the highly questionable ones. Inept officials on the field should ‘never’ be allowed to determine the outcome of a game!! It is not fair to the players or their fans.”-Steve M., Hudson, FL


There should be an official in the booth who can overrule calls or non-calls on the field. Making many of these calls in real time is challenging at best. If the NFL is going to let the public see every call in super slo mo the only way to preserve the integrity of the game is to have an official who also watches the super slo mo replays.”-Rocco S., New Hampshire

“Refereeing has been pitiful the entire season!!!”-Robert C., Walpole, MA

“Little desire to watch the Super Bowl after watching the refs undermine the Bengals last night.”-Paul M., Boston, MA

“Well I have been frustrated by the NFL’s inability to be consistent with their calls for a long long time. It is long past time to go with pro refs that their jobs depend on the correct calls. And training during the off season. The NFL makes big money time to get it together. The fans deserve better than they are getting as well as the teams that are affected by the bad calls.”-Arthur S., Westland, MI

“Total confusion by the ref’s!! Bad calls both ways - but mostly on the Bengals.”-Anonymous

“Officiating is part of the game. The 49ers could have pulled a challenge flag on the catch that was shown not to be secured/ incomplete. But, they did not & that is on them. When the clock issued caused the callback of a play in the KC/Cinc game, that is probably the stated rules for such a circumstance. The officials do not know what the future will hold, but if a problematic borderline situation occurs - officials must go to the rules to settle that matter. The bad outcome impacting the Bengals, is just that, bad luck. ‘Let the chips fall where they may’ is the expression that I think of in situations like this.”-Arthur S., Salem, MA


Kansas City does not deserve to be in the Superbowl. They were literally given the game by the so-called game officials. The do over of 4th down and a really cheap defensive holding call when the play was 30 yards away was disgraceful and I am no big Cinci fan. The roughing the kicker call was equally disgraceful. The blocker was clearly pushed into the kicker. A 5-yard penalty may have been appropriate. The umpire’s discretion was clearly in favor of KC. Although it was early in the game the catch that wasn’t set up the first TD for Philly. Sometimes when things like that happen, it sets the tone for the rest of the game. San Francisco could not catch a break for the rest of the game. Seems to me the penalties against the 49es were way out of proportion to what the Eagles were getting. Were they that perfect? I don’t think so. There was nothing fair in these two games. I won’t watch the super bowl now. I wish both teams lose.”-N.R. Diver, Sarasota, FL


Its hard to believe these are professional officials. There are 7 of them on the field and they still miss even the most obvious calls. I scream at the TV, ‘what were you looking at?’ at least 2x/game, and that’s just for the neutral games. Either clean up the mess and incorporate technology or change the name to semi-professional football.”-Steve M., New Hampshire

You never want to see a team win because of the referee. The officials gifted Kansas City the win.”-Jesse G., Wakefield, MA

Some of it must be attributed to lack of clarity in the rules given the range of call/no-calls. Based on what I’ve seen this season, I could not give you clear definitions of ‘completed pass,’ ‘pass interference,’ ‘intentional grounding,’ ‘roughing the passer,’ ‘taunting’ or ‘unnecessary roughness.’”-Lee G., Framingham, MA

I was looking for a place to vent. The officiating in both games was terrible. The calls were inconsistent at best and rigged at worst. Truly a travesty. The pace of play was completely ruined. I will not watch the Super Bowl and probably give up on the NFL completely…or until I hear that the ‘officiating’ has improved.”- Armor T., Gold Canyon, AZ

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Jenna Reyes can be reached at Follow her @jennaelaney and Instagram @jennaelaney.