Looking back at the call that sent the NFL world into a frenzy, head replacement referee Wayne Elliott admits he “screwed it up.”
Appearing on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” Thursday night, Elliott told hosts James Brown and Chris Collinsworth that his phone didn’t stop ringing for 72 hours following the controversial ending of the Green Bay Packers’ Sept. 24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Most of the phone calls came from Wisconsin numbers. So naturally, Elliott ignored a call from a Wisconsin area code when his house phone rang last week.
This time, though, it was Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was careful to not criticize Elliott and his crew in the days after the game.
“He heard I was having a rough week with all the calls and everything,” Elliott said on “Inside the NFL.” “He just heard I was having a rough week and wanted me to know that what I did, controversial and maybe he didn’t agree with it, that I handled it with class. He has a home in Austin (Texas) and he said something like ‘it is always good to know another good Austinite.’ “
But what about the call that cost McCarthy’s team a victory, awarding a TD catch to Seattle’s Golden Tate instead of a game-ending interception to Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings?
“When I saw the replay for the first time with audio, I heard (ESPN’s) Mike Tirico saying — and he’s looking at it for the first time live — and he says, ‘Simultaneous,’ ” Elliott said. “He says that word in his description of the play. So I think it was right (at the time).”
Collinsworth then asked what he would call now.
“I probably call interception,” Elliot said. “… I learned a rule by screwing up the rule. That’s the best way for me to learn them, by screwing them up.”
Elliott and fellow replacement official Jim Core, also interviewed by “Inside the NFL,” both said the replacements were told not to call pass interference on Hail Marys.
The day following the Monday night controversy, the NFL released a statement saying offensive pass interference should have been called on Tate – before the catch even came into question — and should have ended the game.
“It was brought up that you don’t really call interference on a Hail Mary,” Elliott said. “Deep officials were trained that during a Hail Mary, there is a lot of bodies in there and you just let it go. That’s from my understanding. I was not in the deep officials training.”
The aftermath was described by Elliott, a real estate agent, as “life changing.”
“It was quiet,” Elliott said of the referee’s locker room after the game. “It was like a losing locker room, very little conversation. The whole bus ride back was just quiet. It reminded me of when I played and we lost a game and nobody spoke on the bus. It was just quiet.”
Through it all, both Elliott and Core wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if needed.
“I had the time of my life,” Elliott said. “Call me back guys, I’ll do it again. Officiating football is one thing I love to do more than anything else I do.”