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Phil Luckett had a hand in Monday night’s debacle


In nearly 11 years of this website’s existence, no game has created a stronger reaction than Monday night’s debacle in Seattle.

Coincidentally, the only other game that created similar buzz also involved the Seahawks. It was Super Bowl XL, which left the Seahawks feeling chagrined by a string of questionable calls, prompting among other things the creation of officiating jerseys that weren’t black and white, but black and yellow.

But that game didn’t entail an error that directly and clearly determined the outcome. Few NFL games turn on such a bright-line moment. And one of the men involved in last night’s game had a direct hand (literally and figuratively) in a game-changing decision that involved, well, a piece of change.

Phil Luckett, the man who bungled the overtime coin toss in a Thanksgiving 1998 game between the Steelers and Lions, was the league supervisor in the replay booth for the game between the Packers and the Seahawks, according to Peter King of The Seahawks likewise know that name, because Luckett was the referee on the crew that incorrectly gave Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde a game-winning touchdown against the Seahawks, not long after the Steelers-Lions morass.

As we explained several weeks ago, the NFL is using a league supervisor for every regular-season game officiated by replacements. It’s a procedure that the league normally uses during the postseason.

The league supervisor now sits in the replay booth. Which means that Luckett was change-purse deep in the decision to not overturn the ruling on the field of a touchdown.

As NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos explained, both during Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports Network and PFT Live on the web, the league supervisor and the replay official -- neither of whom are replacements -- are directly involved in the replay decisions. It’s a procedure that doesn’t apply under normal circumstances, with the regular officials on the field and the regular referee going under the hood.

Thus, for three of the most notorious game-deciding errors in recent NFL history, Luckett was involved. That was bad luck for the Steelers in 1998, bad luck for the Seahawks later that year, but good luck for the Seahawks on Monday night.