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It's time to stop blaming the referees

NFL fans need to stop blaming referees for doing their jobs.

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Dashon Goldson this offseason, they knew they were getting a player who would hit defenseless receivers a lot, and would hit them too high on occasion. And they also knew that those plays would get penalized, as they have been for two years now. And yet, when that's exactly what happened against the New York Jets, the fans' first reflex was to blame the referees.

The rule is simple: you cannot hit a defenseless receiver in the head/neck area. It doesn't matter if the receiver lowered his head in a reflex. It doesn't matter if the defender hit him with a shoulder instead of his helmet. You just can't hit the receiver high. And if you do, you are going to get flagged, your team is going to lose 15 yards, and you're going to lose a bunch of money.

Instead of going "COME ON REF", which is the clean version of the go-to exclamation on those players, maybe we should start going "COME ON, GOLDSON." Maybe we should start blaming players for breaking rules that they know are in place. Maybe we should not blame a referee for throwing a flag we know he has to and will throw.

You can disagree with the rules. We can have some good discussions about how much physical punishment players should be allowed to assume in exchange for money. But that doesn't change a thing: right now, you cannot hit defenseless receivers to the head, you cannot use your helmet as a weapon, and you can't hit quarterbacks late or to the head. The rules are what they are, and they aren't all that ambiguous.

So when you see your favorite player slam into a receiver who has just caught the ball and hit him in the head, you can cheer. You can go "WHOOOOOOO" all you want. But when that flag comes out, it's not the fault of the officials. It's the fault of that player for making a stupid play. The officials don't make the rules, they just enforce them.

If you want to blame someone, blame the owners for changing the rules or the players for breaking them. Don't blame the officials for doing their jobs.