Former NFL Ref: Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews Shouldn't Have Been Flagged For Hit On Alex Smith

For the second time in two weeks, Clay Matthews was called for roughing the passer – and one former ref has no idea what he did wrong

Taz and the Moose
October 30, 2018 - 6:15 am

USA Today Images

For the second straight week, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for roughing the passer, and both incidents left fans asking the same question: What did he do wrong?

“I watched this, and I kind of cringe,” former NFL official Jim Daopoulos said on Taz & The Moose. “I understand what the NFL is trying to do here. We have to protect the quarterback. That’s the franchise player. They’re really trying to protect them. But what Clay Mathews did was absolutely exactly the way it’s supposed to be done. I don’t know how else a player can take the quarterback down – other than the way Clay did it.”

With the Packers trailing the Redskins 28-17 late in the third quarter Sunday, Matthews beat his man and sacked Smith to force 3rd-and-long. Only Washington was awarded a first down.

“What they’re trying to get away from him, they don’t want the quarterback lifted and driven into the ground,” Daopoulos said. “They’re just putting too much responsibility on this referee to overprotect the quarterback. It’s very frustrating. People are frustrated with it, but I know the officials are frustrated with it also. But that’s the directive they’re getting from the league office: protect that quarterback. 

Matthews was flagged for a hit on Kirk Cousins in Week 2. That penalty cost Green Bay a win. Matthews has been flagged for three rouging-the-passer penalties this season. He is the first player since 2001 to be penalized three times through three weeks for that penalty.

Daopoulos said the NFL has not given officials proper instruction on what is – and isn’t – roughing the passer.

“These officials have officiated so many games over the years to get to the level that they’re at,” he said. “I think we’ve got to do is we’ve just got to let them officiate and make gut calls. What do you think is legal, and what do you think is illegal? I’m not sure they’re getting the proper directive from the league office. At some point, it’s very difficult for the official when he goes out there and sees things because every tackle is different just like every hold is different and every pass interference is different. 

“What you try to teach officials is call it from your gut,” Daopoulos continued. “Is one guy getting the advantage? Is one player taking advantage over another player? That’s what it all comes down to: advantage and disadvantage. When you put this quarterback in this position, he’s going to get hit. He’s going to get hit sometimes. Just don’t abuse him. Don’t drive him into the ground.

“I think the officials are doing a great job with the information that they’re getting right now. They’re trying to decipher exactly what the league wants – and I’m not sure if the league knows exactly what they want.”

Daopoulos’ message to Matthews: keep doing what you’re doing.

“I’d tell him to keep playing football like he knows how to play football and hopefully they’ll adjust,” Daopoulos said. “I don’t think he did anything outside of the rules. I don’t feel he did anything trying to hurt the player. I don’t think he did anything that was unnecessary that should have been called.”