NFL issues memo continuing to blame Detroit Lions for eligibility reporting issue

The NFL writes its own narrative like few entities do, and they conveniently ignored a key piece of the Lions' eligibility reporting issue.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It's over, it happened and what's done is done. The Detroit Lions thought they had a game-winning two-point conversion against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, but left tackle Taylor Decker was called for illegal touching after referee Brad Allen declared he had not reported as eligible.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest Decker did what he needed to do to report himself as an eligible receiver. Head coach Dan Campbell acknowledged the obvious attempt to confuse the Cowboys, by having Decker and Penei Sewell near Allen as extra offensive lineman Dan Skipper ran on the field as a late substitute. The video shows that, and anyone associated with the Lions says Decker reported and Skipper did not. Including the two principals in the equation, Decker and Skipper.

The league, per a report from Pro Football Talk, subsequently has blamed the Lions for "deception and gamesmanship that backfired." What they successfully did was confuse Allen, whose track record simply shows he's a poor referee. He has not and will not simply own the mistake.

NFL memo misses the point about eligibility reporting "issue" the Lions had vs. Cowboys

On Tuesday afternoon, the NFL issued a video memo to remind teams about the proper procedure for a player reporting as eligible. The rule clearly states the proper procedure, which it has appeared all along that Decker followed.

The video first shows the one other time in the game against the Cowboys Skipper came on the field for an offensive snap, and shows him doing everything he had to in order to report as eligible. That's fine.

The next clip shows what the world has seen constantly, from one angle or another. Skipper coming onto the field, subbing in for someone. Skipper is circled, as he runs in the general direction of Allen to try to confuse the Cowboys.

What the league conveniently ignores in the video is Decker walking toward Allen as Skipper comes on, appearing to wipe his chest too (the universal, accepted signal to report as eligible). Allen seems to be looking right at him, and Decker (accompanied by Sewell) walks to Allen to presumably make it verbally clear to Allen he's reporting as eligible.

The narration from Senior VP of Officiating Training and Development Walt Anderson spells it out.

"To allow the defense an opportunity to match personnel to avoid deception and to ensure fairness, the player must immediately report the change in his eligibility status to the referee, who will inform the defensive team and will make an announcement to the stadium before that play. It is the responsibility of the player to be sure of that change in status is clearly communicated by both a physical signal with his hands up and down in front of his chest and to report to the referee his intention to report as an eligible receiver."

Decker literally did all of that. The physical signal on his chest, and a subsequent verbal signal to declare himself as eligible. He was not walking to Allen to wish him Happy New Year.

The video also describes what would be an illegal formation by the Lions, if Skipper had reported as eligible. That's irrelevant though, because he did not report as eligible-according to the rule, and Anderson's explanation that reflects the rule.

The NFL loves to draw conclusions and work backwards to prove them, and write its own narrative when controversy comes. In this case, they won't acknowledge that one of their part-time referees (and one of the worst they have, by many accounts) simply made a mistake.

In the video memo sent to teams to remind them of the proper eligibility reporting procedure, the complete failure to ever acknowledge Decker's movements on the controversial play shows the league doesn't want anyone to see what's in plain sight. But everyone can see it anyway, which just makes the NFL look dumb.

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