LA Rams fans know going into each NFL game that the officiating is going to miss some calls. Whether its a flag dropped for a foul that did not occur, did occur but is never called, or simply an infraction that changed the course of the game but the referee on the field missed completely, there seems to be an ever increasing aspect of subjectivity to a game that relies heavily upon fair and objective application of the rules to both teams.
It's that willy-nilly application that seems to heavily favor one team or the other that results in bad optics over the NFL officials. That is not good for the game.
But the NFL could point to the annual NFL Awards presentation as a fair and objective showcase and example of the NFL getting it right. Whether it is an objective application of on-field production, or simply a chance to recognize a player or coach who became an integral part of their team's success, it was the last bastion of fair play.
Only, it wasn't. In fact, the Annual NFL Awards presentations has all of the meaning of the NCAA Heisman Trophy. It's great for placing something in the trophy case, but it has lost its meaning.
Let's showcase the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award to illustrate the point. Here are their comparative statistics, with double team stats provided by ESPN Analytics:
1st place votes
2nd place votes
3rd place votes
Will Anderson Jr.
The trouble is, both rookie NT Kobie Turner and OLB Byron Young put up far better numbers statistically than Houston Texans OLB Will Anderson Jr. or Jalen Carter. But this award was never about who was more productive, was it?
Just for argument's sake, LA Rams NT Kobie Turner tied the QB sack total of All-Pro Aaron Donald from his rookie season. And yet, in the end, a guy with more tackles, more quarterback sacks, and far more occasions to face being double teamed at the line of scrimmage is viewed as no better than third place for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors?
Shame on you, NFL voters. Whether done out of ignorance, lack of effort to truly assess the impact and production of players up for the award, or a more sinister objective of ignoring objective statistics to vote for your team or conference's favorite player because it 'felt right,' the optics for the outcome are worse than those missed calls during NFL games.
This was not a bang-bang play that required an instant determination. This was not something that needed to be rushed whatsoever. This was an opportunity to demonstrate that the NFL is truly capable of fair and objective assessment of players, regardless of when they are selected in the NFL Draft.
Instead, the opposite occurred. When confronted with objective statistics or a popularity vote that aligned with the 2023 NFL Draft projections, far too many voters were unwilling to accept that their draft profile and assessment of Wake Forest nose tackle Kobie Turner was a far better rookie candidate than projected.
Rather than get it right, the same group doubled down on their assessment from a year ago. In the end, those voters may have won the battle, but they are rapidly losing a credibility war. After all, if the DROTY award is not assessed on objective statistics, then call it what the award truly is: Most Popular Defensive Rookie of the Year
So how did Kobie Turner react after a disappointing result? He reacted in the manner that you might expect:
Discipline. Attitude. Work-ethic. Grit. Kobie Turner can only try to change the things that are in his control. In the end, he should be proud of his 2023 NFL season. But NFL voters who decided that a rookie who led in sacks and tackles was not worthy of the DROTY award? They have very little to be proud about.