TAMPA — York High graduate Bruce Arians is willing to wage his war on poor NFL officiating even when he knows it may hurt his team.
Arians knew he was out of replay challenges Sunday and throwing the red flag would cost the Bucs their second timeout trailing the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 with 6:31 remaining in the game.
But replays showed that Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray’s knee was down and should’ve resulted in a sack by Shaquil Barrett and a loss of about 10 yards instead of the incomplete pass officials ruled on the field.
Normally, somebody would be assigned to take the red challenge flag away from Arians when the team have run out of challenges in the game.
"I kept it,'' Arians said. "It goes back about eight years. I saw (Bengals coach) Marvin Lewis throw it to stop a game.
"(Murray) was obviously on his knee. It was a timeout. I wanted to make a statement.''
Ironically, the game involving Lewis came against the Bucs in 2014 and stopping play with an illegal challenge flag with under two minutes left in the game proved to be the difference for the Bengals.
The Bucs trailed 14-13 to the Bengals at Raymond James Stadium when quarterback Josh McCown had completed a 20-yard pass to Louis Murphy from the Cincinnati 41-yard line.
Because it was under two minutes remaining in the game, Lewis knew he couldn’t challenge but threw the flag anyway. When officials convened, he told them the Bucs had 12 men on the field and the break in the action allowed for a booth review to confirm it.
Instead of a play that put the Bucs within field goal range to win the game, they essentially lost 25 yards on the penalty. McCown fired incomplete three times and the game ended with the Bengals on top.
"I still thought we should’ve won the pass interference on M.J.,'' Arians said. "But we obviously didn’t. Things are going in a game, there’s only certain ways to get a point across and it could’ve cost us by losing a timeout. But it wasn’t a penalty.''
But Arians had a point to prove to officials and he was willing to waste a timeout to do it.
"When everybody sees it on the JumboTron, it’s like, “You guys watching this?' Let’s pick it up.''
Two weeks ago, Arians blasted NFL officials for not being accountable after a quick whistle that erased a fumble return for a touchdown and likely cost the Bucs a win against the Titans.
One day following the Bucs’ 27-23 loss at Tennessee, Arians was furious at officials for not seeing that punter Brett Kern, the holder on the Titans’ fake 46-yard field goal attempt, lost the football when he was tackled by linebacker Devin White.
Safety Andrew Adams scooped up the football and returned it for a touchdown, which would have given the Bucs a 30-27 lead with 3:41 remaining. But line judge Mark Stewart ruled that Kern was down by contact. Replays showed he had lost a fumble.
“My biggest thing is, you know, referees aren’t held accountable,'' Arians said at the time. “Coaches get fired, general managers get fired. Players get cut. Referees aren’t accountable and it’s a shame. It’s been that way for 40 years and now that we’ve got a new agreement, it will be that way for 40 more years.”
On Sunday, when officials handed Arians his red challenge flag back, he tossed it toward the Bucs’ sideline.