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Walt Coleman
The 12th Player of
The New England Patriots

Walt Coleman (#65) of Little Rock Arkansas  NFL Referee for 16 seasons

Who is Walt Coleman? 

 If you watch NFL football with any regularity, you've seen him.  Maybe you've never really noticed him, but you've most likely heard his name.  How do I know that?  Because Walt Coleman is perhaps the worst referee in the NFL.  A ref with a history of blown calls, yet, still employed by the league.
 Think it's just me?
  Let's take a look at some of Walt's finer moments on the field . . .

Controversy thrives in Patriots-Raiders encounters

The Fumble Call


Rodney Lakin - Football.com:

"You also have Walt Coleman, a referee who is quickly developing a reputation as the most incompetent official in all of professional sports...Three steps may not be, but three strikes should be enough for the NFL to finally step in and end Walt Coleman's reign as a head referee during football games."


Sid Hartman - Minnesota Star Tribune:

"The national telecast of the Vikings-Packers game on Sunday night wasn't the right time for Walter Coleman and his crew to put on the worst exhibition of NFL officiating I have seen in my 42 years of covering the Vikings."


Kevin Siefert and Kent Youngblood - Minnesota Star Tribune:

"Fallout continued Wednesday from the wild conclusion to the Vikings' 26-22 loss Sunday in Green Bay. In a confidential memorandum, the NFL acknowledged its officiating crew made at least nine mistakes during the game -- including a pass interference call that negated a Vikings interception on the Packers' game-winning drive, according to a league source who saw the document...While all nine plays had an impact on the game, certainly the most crucial was the 28-yard penalty called on Chavous by referee Walt Coleman's crew."


San Francisco Chronicle Staff:

"Incomplete forward pass?  Shake the snow globe again.  We must have been seeing things. Certainly referee Walt Coleman was when he got in front of that replay monitor Saturday night in Foxboro.

Since when is an obvious attempt to tuck the ball part of a forward pass?  According to Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2 of the NFL rulebook, whenever the quarterback moves his arm forward to pass and the ball ends up coming out, it is a forward pass and not a fumble.

According to Mike Pereira, head of officiating for the NFL "Brady, at that point, was not trying to pass the ball, but it comes to his (left) hand. He never controlled it long enough to consider him a runner, nor does he try to bring it up again to pass." Thus, when Charles Woodson hit New England QB Tom Brady -- who was in full tuck mode, as everyone could see -- Brady's arm movement was merely the continuation of a forward pass because Brady somehow wasn't in possession of the ball he'd never let go of since the snap. We hope this little discussion has helped clear up any lingering confusion you may have had regarding this matter."


Rob Rossi - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Columnist:

"This week's No. 1 star: Walt Coleman

Who: Walt Coleman, NFL official 

What: Overruled his own fumble call and allowed New England to keep possession on a drive that ended with a tying field goal that sent the other AFC divisional playoff game into overtime

When: Jan. 19 

Where: Foxboro Stadium, Foxboro, Mass. 

Why: By reversing his original ruling -- that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had fumbled the ball while being hit by Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson -- Coleman gave new life to New England. The Patriots took advantage and sent the game into overtime, where they won to advance to the AFC championship game Sunday against the Steelers at Heinz Field

How: Pretty simple stuff that nobody understands. In the final two minutes of any NFL game, all questionable plays that are eligible to be reviewed are automatically reviewed. Brady's apparent fumble came with the Patriots driving, but trailing the Raiders, 13-10, with less than two minutes left in regulation. Though no Patriots player argued that Brady's arm was in a throwing motion when Woodson hit him, the play was still subject to review despite Coleman's ruling that Brady had fumbled the ball (the Raiders had recovered). Upon reviewing the play, Coleman reversed his decision and ruled the play as an incomplete pass, and New England maintained possession.

The Skinny: According to an NFL rule nobody cared to know before this game, Brady was indeed still in throwing motion when he began to tuck the ball away. Stupid? Most definitely..."


Dr. Z - Sports Illustrated:

"Smith, running like a maniac, off to a career night, breaks his hand in the first half, presumably on his long TD, the last 10 yards of which were accomplished with his hand firmly grabbing the facemask of cornerback Kenny Wright.  No call, of course.  But the no-calls balanced out when Cris Carter got away with grabbing Darren Woodson's jersey and yanking him out of the way on the Vikings' go-ahead TD.  The superstar syndrome.  These guys get away with murder.  Walt Coleman's officiating crew blew another one by not flagging Duane Clemons for the punch to the groin of Flozell Adams.  Don't get me started on officiating."


Dr. Z - Sports Illustrated:

"Now we come to Buffalo-New England.  I was lucky enough to get coaching tapes of that one.  What they showed was that the worst call wasn't the interference in the end zone on the Hail Mary.

This is what happened:

The Patriots, with the ball on the Bills' 26 and time for one play, ran three wideouts down the left side.  The Bills defended it with five DBs.  The interesting thing was that unlike most Hail Marys, when everything is bunched into a big cluster, there was clear separation between all receivers and defenders.  That's what made any interference fairly easy to spot.

Irvin could have made the play on the ball but he froze.  Glenn went up for it, and Jones loosely grabbed him around the waist -- not a blatant grab, but there was contact. The ball hit Glenn in the chest, the flag came down.  If the contact had been made in the middle of a milling mob, with everyone bumping everyone else, then I'd agree that it was outrageous, but as I said, there was room for the official to get a clear look at the play.  A close call, but not an especially bad one.

The really bad call came on the play preceding that one.  The Patriots had fourth and nine on the Bills' 36.  Drew Bledsoe threw a sideline pass to Jefferson.  He went up for the ball, stretched and came down with it out-of-bounds.  The question was: Were his feet in at the moment of the catch? No, they weren't.  It appeared that Jefferson lifted his left foot just before the ball arrived. The right foot was clearly in the air.  Uh-uh, no catch.

The Bills have to get over that awful loss to New England, courtesy of Walt Coleman's officiating crew."


Dr. Z - Sports Illustrated:

"I'd be screaming bloody murder at this point if they would have lost the Eagles game on that phony decision that Todd Pinkston did not step out of bounds on his 45-yard catch.  Hey, Walt Coleman, three steps on the line isn't enough for you?  Better get your eyes checked, buddy."



"I do not care what anybody says.  Walt Coleman is not qualified to work little league. Coleman blatantly and directly made up a pair of phantom calls to snatch victory from the Indianapolis Colts and hand it over to The San Francisco 49ers.  Incompetence is not even a valid excuse for the officiating in that game, as quite frankly, it bordered on criminal and I am surprised that there has not been an FBI investigation into that game. Further cause for Investigation, Coleman's crew did the same thing to Buffalo, granting New England a "miracle" come from behind victory, by giving The Pats a blatant out of bounds catch and then followed it up with a phantom pass interference on a Hail Mary.

Coleman's officiating is simply embarrassing to the league, disgusting to the fans and bordering on criminal in nature. It is exactly this type of officiating which convinces many that NFL officials cannot be omnipotent in the new big money NFL.  Coleman's incompetence may be the best argument for the return of replay, and if so, then there is a silver lining to every cloud."


Associated Press:

"This week, coach Bill Cowher said the NFL acknowledged referee Walt Coleman should have granted Pittsburgh a touchdown after reviewing a play in a 23-20 loss to Tennessee.

"It should have been a touchdown," Cowher said Tuesday. "That's great to know." 

On the final play of the third quarter, Graham threw a 17-yard pass to Hines Ward, who was ruled down at the Tennessee 1-yard line.  Cowher challenged the call, and Coleman ruled the replay was inconclusive, costing the Steelers a timeout as well as the score.  The loss of the timeout came into play when, on the Steelers' final drive, Pittsburgh used its final timeout before Kris Brown missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt.  "We would have had another timeout at the end of the game," Cowher said. "There are a lot of things that could have taken place."

Cowher called the incident "water over the dam," but said the Steelers (0-3) have enough problems without them being compounded by officiating errors."


Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Columnist:

"Let's start by saying the Steelers deserved to win.  It would have been a tragedy of the worst kind, at least in this city, if they had not held on to win, 30-15.  But that doesn't make another bad call by another NFL official any easier to take.  Certainly, it doesn't make the Jaguars whiners for complaining.  "That was a blown call," said wide receiver Keenan McCardell. "Real blown."

Here's what happened: 

Brunell, trying to bring the Jaguars back from a 23-15 deficit, faced a second-and-10 at the Steelers' 42 with a little more than three minutes left.  Avoiding pressure, he rolled to his left and spotted McCardell behind Lee Flowers down the left sideline, but his underthrown pass allowed Flowers to catch up to McCardell.  There clearly was contact between the two before the ball arrived.  Flowers never looked for the ball, which bounced off his helmet as McCardell tried to catch it at the Steelers' 1.

To the naked eye, it looked like blatant pass interference. On replay, it looked much worse. 

"The back judge [Bob Lawing] made the call," Jaguars Coach Tom Coughlin said of what actually was a non-call. "I had a hard time with that one."  "[Lawing] told me the ball landed out of bounds," McCardell said.  That was true, but only after it bounced off Flowers' helmet.  He and McCardell were in bounds at the critical moment.  Walt Coleman told pool reporter Jim Wexell after the game. "You have to have contact to have interference...even though [Flowers] wasn't playing the ball.  There's not a foul for face-guarding."  "Are you telling me that if the guy doesn't try for the ball and runs right through me, it's not a penalty?" McCardell asked. "That was truly face-guarding. That's a terrible call."  

The whole thing was unfortunate because there's no way to prevent it short of hiring better officials.  Even if there were instant replay, this wouldn't have been covered because it was a judgment call.  And, although the human element is and always should be a part of the game, it's sad to see big games influenced by an official's mistake.


Dave Goldberg, AP Writer:

"This was one of those weeks when the officials got noticed, not a good thing from the league standpoint.  

The biggest brouhaha was in San Francisco, where there were questions about calls that nullified two end zone interceptions by the Colts and allowed a touchdown by San Francisco.  Indianapolis coach Jim Mora said there was even an argument between referee Walt Coleman and another official on one of the penalties, a holding call against the Colts.  "After the official that worked our side argued (with Coleman) that it wasn't defensive holding, he came back to me and said it was offensive holding, if anything," Indianapolis coach Jim Mora said. "It was a horrible, horrible job by the officials.

Later, on the 49ers' final drive, there was a pass interference call that gave San Francisco 27 yards on its final job, setting up Wade Richey's chip-shot field goal to win it. Replays showed there was incidental contact on the play, nothing egregious enough to essentially hand San Francisco the game."


Peter King, Sports Illustrated:

"Colts 31, 49ers 20 We've corrected the score because referee Walt Coleman's crew robbed Indianapolis blind at 3Com Park on Sunday and handed San Francisco a 34-31 gift. Peyton Manning really beat the Niners with a fearless, three-touchdown, no-interception day."


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