John Parry watched an exciting “Monday Night Football” game unfold for 2 ¹/₂ hours, then watched on in horror.
“I am hoping that the video shows that there’s a hand on a neck or a face mask, but it’s not there,” said ESPN’s Parry, the most recent referee-turned-TV analyst. “That’s a sickening feeling. … And lo and behold we get a second one. Again, I am hoping the replay, let it show it. I feel for the teams, the coaches, the fans. It’s hard.”
The Lions-Packers game three weeks ago — decided in part by two phantom hands to the face calls against Detroit — brought renewed calls to fix the NFL’s officiating crisis.
“It’s front page every week, and we have to find a way to get it off the front page,” said Parry, ahead of his next assignment with the Giants playing host to the Cowboys on Monday night.
“Mistakes are part of the game, but I think we are just struggling to put our arms around some of the product that we see right now.”
Parry called his last of three Super Bowls in February before ESPN wooed him off the field and into the booth. Parry had imagined staying another year or two on the field before the TV decision. Instead, he is now part of a growing industry of rules analysts that include Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino (Fox), Gene Steratore (CBS) and Terry McAulay (NBC).
The rules of the game have gotten so complicated that the 54-year-old Parry, who has been officiating since he was a teenager, still spends a few hours parsing through the rules book each week to get a fuller understanding of some of the more arcane rules. Yet, it is one of the more simpler ones that worries him the most.
Parry spoke with The Post on the drive from Pittsburgh — where the Steelers beat the Dolphins — to his home in Ohio. He called it a “tough night” for the officials. A dubious offensive pass interference call against JuJu Smith-Schuster that was reviewed and upheld was still bugging him.
The pass interference review rule, which was a direct result of the awful non-call at the end of the Saints-Rams NFC Championship last season, has only added confusion to one of the more challenging and crucial calls a crew faces.
“The psyche of the official is a concern to me at this point based on this change,” Parry said. “As an official looking up at the Jumbotron, you know in your heart, ‘I wish that was bigger. That’s probably one I should have stayed away from.’ Now, we have reviews that enforce it.
“How does that affect the psyche of the official week in and week out? We’ve seen a majority have been upheld with those 50 or so replays we’ve had. The psyche of the official has to be black and white. Now we are getting mixed messages, that doesn’t work really well in this league.”
Parry has been touted as a natural since Week 1 by play-by-play man Joe Tessitore, but it has not felt that way for him. Parry stills feels more official than broadcaster. He was drawn to the booth with the desire to teach fans the finer points of the game he loves.
Parry feels the pain of his former colleagues, even as he is put in the position where he now is sometimes forced to criticize them.
The most troubling part for Parry is he feels a bigger mess coming, born by this pass interference review.
“The other thing that worries me at this point is that the league has boxed itself into a corner of standing with these calls,” Parry said. “As we get deeper and deeper into the season, it’s Murphy’s law and at some point in a playoff game we are going to have a pass interference come up and we are going to have to make a change.
“Then everyone is going to go back and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. That’s not what we did for 17 weeks.’ That’s my big concern at this point.”