They’re Not Even Trying to Appear Impartial Anymore: Three Ways the NFL Telegraphed That the Outcome of Super Bowl LIV Was By Design
Three Indicators that the NFL Wanted Kansas City to Win the Super Bowl
First Things First
Although I do believe the officiating in Super Bowl LIV was suspect, I’m not saying the San Francisco 49ers would have pulled off the win, because no one can truly know for sure how the game would have turned out if all things were equal in the area of officiating.
Furthermore, this article is not for the purpose of lamenting the officiating, although I would be doing a disservice to my overall point if I were not to at least touch on it.
I’ve watched countless games over my lifetime of being an NFL fan, and I’ve never seen as many games decided by clear bias in officiating as I have in the past decade. But it’s not a mystery why.
It’s no longer a secret (unless you choose to ignore it) that the NFL is officially identified in the courts as “sports entertainment” and so, is not beyond rigging games for desired outcomes, and cannot legally be held accountable for doing so. The NFL exists to make money, and it will take whatever measures necessary to maximize its profits.
Now, let me be clear before I go any further: the 49ers bear the brunt of responsibility for their loss, most specifically in the areas of an overall lackluster performance and painfully poor play calling. So, please indulge me for a moment and allow me to elucidate on those two points (and an additional observation) before getting to the main thesis of my article: three times the NFL foreshadowed their intention (and expectation) the Kansas City Chiefs would win the Super Bowl.
49ers’ Lackluster Play
Where was that fiery and robust intensity we saw from that 49ers defense all season long?
That formidable defense never looked like they were fired up for this game. I noticed as early as the first quarter the entire defense appeared flat and unengaged; almost as if they were told just before the game that they were all going to be traded to the Browns.
Kwon Alexander, for example, with his season long infectious intensity (even when sidelined with an injury), was completely subdued in his energy and was a non-factor in his play (including a missed tackle that made him look silly and a dropped interception). He was simply not legendary in the biggest game of his life.
49ers’ Terrible Play Calling
San Francisco’s head coach, Kyle Shanahan, is a genius, but sometimes he can’t get out of his own way.
The 49ers forced a 4th down on the Chiefs with about a minute and a half left in the second quarter (and would also be getting the ball first following halftime). Shanahan had all three timeouts at his disposal but did not use any of them to stop KC from chewing up all the time they could before punting. And that’s exactly what KC did.
I remember remarking out loud to myself as I watched the clock dwindling down, why Shanahan was not taking one of his timeouts. There was even video of 49ers’ General Manage John Lynch hand signaling from his skybox for Shanahan to take the timeout. For some inexplicable reason, Shanahan did not, and KC successfully took a ton of ticks off the clock.
And that wasn’t the end of the insanity. When the 49ers got the ball, Shanahan called a run play and eschewed any attempt at a hurry-up offense, burning even more time in the huddle until it was simply too late to do anything to add more points.
It is a mystery why Shanahan was content with heading into halftime tied at ten. Who knows how a touchdown or a field goal could have changed the game later on.
This was simply inexcusable. There is no other way to describe it. The 49ers were playing against a high octane offense in the biggest game in the country, if not, the world. Shanahan should have taken every chance he was afforded to put points on the board.
And there was one more play call that left me pulling out my hair and questioning whether Shanahan got enough sleep the night before.
KC just scored their go ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The 49ers began marching down the field with just a few minutes left on the clock. This was their final hope to take the lead back and win the game, and it would be 4th down territory the entire way.
On a third and ten, the 49ers only had two more shots at converting a first down to keep the drive alive. And that’s when a long pass play was dialed up. Garoppolo threw a long-bomb down the field, overthrowing his receiver Emmanuel Sanders, which resulted in 4th and ten with only one more chance to convert.
Why would Shanahan think a long-bomb pass play—with its inherently lower completion percentage—would be favorable over keeping the drive alive by trying to convert an easier, shorter yardage first down? If Shanahan wanted to let one rip, fine, but do it on first or second down, not third.
One other reason why this was a horribly bad call: if Emmanuel Sanders made that catch and scored, the 49ers would have given KC the ball back with plenty of time on the clock to go down the field and score themselves.
This awful call—along with mismanaging the clock at the end of the first half—should haunt Kyle Shanahan for the rest of his life, and rightly so.
One More Thing
I’d be remiss if I failed to at least mention the questionable officiating. This is an issue that should not be left off the table of legitimate discussion.
Now, I’m not talking about sincerely missed calls, I get that. It’s a fast game and not everything can be seen by the officials. What I’m talking about are strategic calls (or no-calls) that clearly give an advantage to one team over another. And anytime you begin to see a lopsided pattern emerge, you know you’re witnessing the evidence of collusion.
Compare the ticky-tack offensive pass interference call against 49er tight end, George Kittle, that negated a huge yardage gain, yet the systematic holding by the Chiefs’ offensive front line the entire game went completely ignored. So obvious was the turning of the blind eyes, that KC never garnered one holding penalty the entire game . . . against the NFL’s best defensive front! That is a remarkable feat.
Now, on Kansas City’s defensive side of the ball, the referees again turned more blind eyes to multiple helmet-to-helmet roughing-the-passer calls perpetrated against Garoppolo (one can only assume the NFL’s emphasis on player safety must not apply during the Super Bowl).
But, again, to clarify, I am not saying the 49ers would have pulled off the win if the officiating was balanced and consistent. And that’s what makes this so infuriating for NFL fans who just want to see two good teams play without a third party’s interference. It’s infuriating because we will never know which of the two teams was truly the best.
It’s been patently obvious to even the casual observer of professional football, that countless NFL games have been decided, not by the skill of the players and strategy of their coaches, but by poor officiating (just ask any Saints’ fan about the NFC Championship game from last season). To disregard the elephant in the room is to be disingenuous.
Naturally, there are plenty of fans who will happily ignore the elephant in the room as long as the bias officiating is propitious to the outcome of the game for their team, and anyone who dares mention the pachyderm in the house can expect no reasonable or civil discourse on the subject. Instead they’re usually met with keyboard warriors who stick their fingers in their ears, protrude their bulbous tongues, and tell them to “get over it” (oftentimes employing a litany of colorful expletives in their failed stab at a logical polemic). Conversely, they are the first ones to complain when their team loses because of bad officiating, failing to see the irony in their hypocrisy or the bigger issue at hand, namely: the NFL is terribly inconsistent at officiating (at best), or the officials are expected to nudge some games toward an outcome the NFL desires (at worst).
It’s not about whose favorite team benefitted from strategic officiating, it’s about the integrity of the game for all fans.
Three Indicators the NFL Wanted and Expected the Kansas City Chiefs to Win the Super Bowl
Let’s look at the three clues that the NFL’s predetermined winner for this Super Bowl was Kansas City.
1). The Overly Conspicuous Hype Train
Seriously, did you not get your fill of the Patrick Mahomes hype train in the post season? Good gravy, this guy was already being crowned the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. But how quickly we forget, just a month ago the NFL was fawning all over Lamar Jackson till he lost in the playoffs. Then magically, overnight, Patrick Mahomes became the golden boy of the NFL and the wall-to-wall coverage began.
Was there any indication from the NFL media machine the past month that they even entertained the idea Patrick Mahomes could lose the Super Bowl? If there was, I must have missed it.
By the giddy, fanboy way the media covered Mahomes and the Chiefs — leading up to the Super Bowl — I was expecting the NFL to make an announcement they were cancelling the Super Bowl and just going to award the Chiefs as the winners. Clearly the NFL is not afraid to let their favoritism show as the league no longer even tries to give the appearance of neutrality. But we’re supposed to trust that when the whistle blows, all that favoritism is left on the sidelines and doesn’t affect the game. Only those with the severest case of cognitive dissonance can believe that.
2). The Hit No One Was Allowed To See
In the fourth quarter the 49ers were trying to control the ball and run time off the clock. On a third down play Jimmy Garoppolo scrambled to the sidelines and was forcibly shoved in what appeared to be a blatant unsportsman-like personal foul of unnecessary roughness after he went out of bounds. It looked bad, and the entire 49ers sidelines erupted from the cheap shot—even Kyle Shanahan himself—yet no flag was thrown. Why? Because the penalty would have given the 49ers a first down, allowing them to retain possession and keep the ball out of Mahomes’ hands. This was clearly not what the NFL could afford to happen that late in the game if they wanted the Chiefs to win.
Amazingly, no one was allowed to see the replay of that hit, as the network refused to show it. If the hit on Garoppolo was legitimate (i.e. Garoppolo was still in bounds when he was pushed) why was the replay not shown? What were they hiding from the viewers?
In all my years of watching professional football, a play like that—generating the chaos on the sidelines that it did—would have surely been replayed by the networks. But not this time. Why? Because if it was as egregious as it looked in real-time, that would have been a point of contention and controversy for the NFL for officials failing to throw a flag (and another indictment against the NFL that player safety isn’t really that important).
I remember it so clearly. It was at that exact moment, when the network essentially said to the viewers, “Move along, there’s nothing to see here,” that I realized the fix was in. Especially when a short time afterward, the network added insult to injury.
A little later in the 4th quarter, when the play clock hit zero before the 49ers snapped the ball (which was not flagged), the NFL felt that — although Garoppolo’s shove out of bounds was not worthy of a replay — somehow this no-call delay of game penalty was worthy of slow motion replay and commentary—and made for much more riveting viewing.
Maybe it was simply the NFL’s way of creating an alibi to say, “See, there’s no bias officiating here. The 49ers got away with one, too.”
3). The Only Super Bowl Party in America
If I had to point to the single most compelling argument for the NFL’s obvious selection of Kansas City to win the Super Bowl, look no further than this.
Throughout the game, whenever the Chiefs scored, the network would cut to a video feed of a large watch-party of Chiefs fans in Kansas City to show their reaction. As for the 49ers, when they scored, there was no such fan party shown.
Two teams in the Super Bowl and the NFL only had a live feed for the fan base of one of those teams? Are we to believe the NFL could find no collection of 49er fans watching the Super Bowl together in San Francisco or anywhere else in the state of California?
When the cameras are only stationed to capture the winning team’s fans, that is the smoking gun that proves the fix was in and the Kansas City Chiefs were expected to win this game.
I did not want to write this article. I had no interest in pursuing this lost cause—prefering rather to ignore the NFL’s obvious influencing of games and go on with my life—but the more I thought about what I witnessed, the more I felt I needed to share my observations. Less to show the NFL that some of us are no longer fooled by the sleight of hand in their organized racket, but more as an attempt at catharsis.
Also, I did not pen this article to take anything away from the Chiefs organization or their fans. In fact, I want to publicly congratulate Kansas City for their great season and Super Bowl win. I also want to extend my congratulations to the Chiefs fans who’ve waited a lifetime for this moment. And finally, I want to congratulate coach Andy Reid—a class act who deserves that Lombardi trophy. (Seriously, who doesn’t like Andy Reid?)
Although it was an exhilarating win for the Chiefs, it was not only a disappointing loss for the 49ers and their fans, it was a loss for all NFL fans because no one will ever know whether this game would have turned out differently had the 49ers and Chiefs been left alone to battle each other for the win based solely on their respective talent, skill, and merit.
“I honestly think some of the games are rigged. The refs pick and choose when they want to throw their flags. There are flags on every play. The refs determine the outcomes of games . . .”
— Las Vegas Raiders linebacker, Vontaze Burfict (Source)
J.L. Pattison has been a football fan since childhood—only recently becoming disillusioned by the direction the NFL has gone, and having to decide if he should stop watching it for the same reason he doesn’t watch professional wrestling.