JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Since the Jacksonville Jaguars lost the AFC Championship Sunday to the New England Patriots, many people have been sounding off about the officiating by the referees.
The Jags were penalized six times for 98 yards, while the Patriots were penalized just once for 10 yards. It's the actions of the referees that have some fans questioning whether the calls were fair or not.
News4Jax spoke with Rich Davis, who works with the refs and tells us what goes on behind the scenes.
Davis has spent a lot of time on the field with referees. He's a Red Hat. That’s someone who’s responsible for starting and stopping plays for commercial breaks. He's been on the field with the Jags for the past 18 years.
"Everything that I see on the field is the refs are trying to do their best,” Davis said. “(There are) so many things going on and (there is) so much ground to cover and things happening quickly."
News4Jax showed him the controversial moments when fans say the refs appear to show favoritism toward the Patriots.
In one photo, the Patriots make the game-winning touchdown and the referee, Tony Steratore, looks a little too excited about it. Steratore has 18 years as an official. Davis has worked with him many times during Jags games and says he has more of a laid-back personality.
"As the back judge, he's interacting a lot with these guys throughout the game, having worked with him,” Davis said. “He'll have conversations with the Jacksonville guys and joke around with them. You're looking at one snapshot. Someone might have said something to him. Yes, it looks unusual but I don't question his integrity."
After the Patriots win, Clete Blakeman, a 10-year referee and head official for the game, ran across the field to congratulate quarterback Tom Brady, sparking further controversy.
"It was a hard-fought game on both sides, and just like the coaches shake hands, I think he's just congratulating him on reaching a Super Bowl at (age) 40. I don't think it shows favoritism," Davis said.
Davis said he's no referee but believes there may have been some questionable calls during Sunday's game. He's said he witnessed refs talk about some bad calls they've made in the past.
"When they see they've made a mistake, I've heard them discussing among themselves, 'Hey, you should've gotten that call right,’” Davis said. “They're graded and I've seen ones that don't do as well and they weren't around the next year."
NFL officials are evaluated each week and are rewarded for excellence and face consequences for not achieving expectations.
The game didn't turn out how Jags fans expected but, at the end of the day, Davis said they had a heck of a year and looks forward to the next season.