Mike McCarthy didn’t need to read the NFL’s statement Tuesday. Between what he’d been told by staffers and the messages he’d received from colleagues and friends throughout the league – not to mention what he’d seen with his own eyes on Monday night – the Green Bay Packers coach knew nothing in the league’s explanation for the Packers’ 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks was going to make him feel any better.
“I'm sure I'm not in agreement with it,” McCarthy said matter-of-factly.
Nor, it seems, is anyone else. Both McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers were inundated with messages in the wake of the loss, which – if you’ve been avoiding everything from SportsCenter to Good Morning America and the Today show to the network evening news – was the result of the replacement refs deciding that Seahawks wideout Golden Tate had “simultaneous possession” with Packers safety M.D. Jennings on a fourth-down pass into the end zone as time expired.
That call, which gave Tate the touchdown catch instead of giving Jennings a victory-clinching interception, was made by side judge Lance Easley, who overruled back judge Derrick Rhonde-Dunn; reviewed by replay official Howard Slavin and replay assistant Terry Poulos, and upheld by referee Wayne Elliott.
“I received more text messages and e-mails than I did after the Super Bowl. I can tell the impact this made,” said McCarthy, whose team fell to 1-2 for the first time since his debut season of 2006. “I think they were in agreement with the fact that they thought it was an interception. But, hey, that's life.”
McCarthy was intent on rerouting the conversation Tuesday from looking back on the questionable officiating of Monday night to forward at Sunday’s game against the desperate 0-3 New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. Rodgers was, too, although he made sure he got his point across about the replacement officials and the NFL’s hard-line stance in negotiations with the NFL Referees Association.
But even as President Barack Obama called the outcome “terrible” and said he’s “been saying for months, we’ve got to get our refs back,” the Packers were trying to move on.
“Our players are passionate, they're emotional right now – understandably so – but it's time we start channeling our energy towards New Orleans,” McCarthy said.
“We need to stay focused. We're not going to get any help. I know this is going to be a story that everybody wants to continue to talk about. And frankly, I'm not going to act like it's not there. This is a play that I'm sure we'll see on TV as we move on in our lives. That's the facts of our business. That's the beauty of what (NFL Films’) Steve Sabol created, God rest his soul.
“The fact of the matter is, we're about New Orleans. We're in tune with staying true to the integrity of the Green Bay Packers, how we conduct ourselves, being professional during a tough time, during a challenge. (It’s) a different challenge, but I'm excited about overcoming it. I look at this as an opportunity to put another feather in our cap."
Before they can do that, though, McCarthy and Rodgers each had questions to answer about Monday night, including:
> Have the Packers gotten any further explanation of the call beyond the NFL’s statement?
McCarthy: “I've been given no explanation. I've been in game planning meetings all day. (Team president/CEO) Mark Murphy has been in contact with the league office throughout the day."
> Do the Packers feel like the league owes them an apology?
McCarthy: “This is the National Football League. I don't think you're owed anything. We need to stay focused on ourselves, the things we can do better. Our players are, once again, I feel for them. And it's time for us to move on."
> What did they see when they watched the replays? (McCarthy saw a replay for the first time on the team charter; Rodgers in the locker room before his press conference)
McCarthy: "Everybody thought it was clearly an interception. I agreed with the fact that I thought it was clearly an interception."
Rodgers: “I wanted to make sure I saw the play before I did my press conference so I had all of the information. So I was trying to get it on someone’s phone, and after my shower I came back into the locker room and the highlights were up on the TV. And then we had most of the guys in there watching that. (When) we watched the last play. with the super slow-mo, which the referees are supposed to have under the hood as well, we watched that replay over and over, and there was a lot of frustration.”
> What was it like on the field after the play? And why did 11 players have to come back out to participate in the extra point?
McCarthy: “The play occurred and it was total chaos. It occurred down in the far end zone on the Seahawks' side. At that time normally at the end of the game, I stand with Doug Collins, our security director, and based on position, I remember I said to Doug, 'There's no way he caught that ball,' just with the reaction of Seattle's bench. It was total chaos. There were people all over the field, there was no communication at all from the officials to myself. We were trying to get our players off the field. At that time, it seemed totally chaotic. Once Wayne (Elliott), the head official, made the announcement, we just left the field. Once again, there was zero communication. I understand what the rules are as far as completing a game with the extra point. Wayne walked into our locker room, asked me to bring 11 guys out and our 11 guys jumped up, put their helmets on and we went back out on the field.”
Rodgers: “How did all of those people get onto the field? It was like a mob scene over there. And we have a lot of players going over there trying to get guys off because we think there’s a fight or something going on over there. I saw the back judge, and then I saw a touchdown called. I’m in disbelief. So I ended up going over and seeing (Seahawks quarterback and ex-Packers backup) Matt (Flynn) as I was starting to leave the field. I just looked back and noticed there was some more commotion with some more guys. So I went over to see what was going on to either of the guys away because there was a fight breaking out. … It was unbelievable. You’ve got a mob scene in the corner. (I have) no idea why (Yahoo! Sports NFL columnist) Mike Silver is on the field, but he’s there. And we’re both in disbelief of what’s going on. It was unbelievable, it was chaos.”
> Will the play result in the referee lockout being resolved and the regular officials returning to work?
McCarthy: “That's a good question, but that's really a question I can't answer. I have no understanding. Really, I don't spend any time or energy on it. I had a chance to talk to Mark Murphy before I came down here. That's a conversation that's frankly between him, I and the football team. I know he was in contact with the league office and hopefully something will get done. Frankly, I'm focused on New Orleans. This is a different situation than we've been in as a team but this is a great opportunity to show our character and show our mettle. We're looking forward to getting out there Sunday.”