jimmy smith2

Oh, so you’re telling me that the guy who’s been accused of holding on a play which could have resulted in a very different outcome for Super Bowl XLVII doesn’t think he held anyone or anything? Please, tell me more.

Yes, Jimmy Smith saying that he didn’t hold Michael Crabtree is about as surprising as everyone in the northeast today telling everyone who isn’t in the northeast that everyone in the northeast doesn’t enjoy snow. In other news, expected things are still expected.

But there’s a little more to it than that.

During a radio interview with ESPN 102.3 in Denver, Smith was inevitably asked about the play, and the non-call. From Sports Radio Interviews, here’s what he said:

“No. … If you look at the play closely, you see him kind of push off of my helmet immediately. So as a DB, what do you do? … If he’s pushing off you gotta make sure you got some type of grip so he doesn’t push off of you. If I never touch him at all and he catches the ball, then it’d be San Francisco winning and why didn’t Jimmy make that play? So I’m happy with the way it turned out.”

Then when he was asked if he feels guilty about making contact beyond the permitted five-yard threshold from the line of scrimmage, Smith added this:

“He ran directly into me. I had inside leverage. He ran into me. So once he did that and tried to push off … I had to make contact. That was on him. He didn’t run a fade; he didn’t get away. He could have just ran and pivoted out or faded away from the ball, but he didn’t. He ran into me so he could make contact to push off to create separation, and I didn’t let that happen.”

49ers fans, players, and janitors will carry the anger over this play to their eternal deathbeds. But Smith’s comments highlight a point that’s been made repeatedly all week: the contact was at worst mutual, and it can be argued that Crabtree initiated it.

Earlier in the interview Smith also noted Crabtree’s style of play, and how the officials had treated physicality throughout the game. He wasn’t condescending, and was instead making a clear observation based on experience. Crabtree is a big-bodied receiver who knows his bulky frame is a great asset combined with his speed, and he often uses that physical force gain to yards after the catch. Early in the game the officials made the decision to allow contact on the outside, and they remained consistent, allowing the battling to continue.

They let the game “play out that way,” Smith said, and he’s right, which makes the final call consistent with the other 59 minutes of play. Was there enough evidence of a hold to justify a penalty? Sure, it can easily be argued that by the finite description in a rule book, pass interference occurred.

But games aren’t officiated by rule books. They’re officiated by humans who interpret that rule book, and make quick, critical decisions in front of mass audiences.

There was no blatant foul here. Instead, there was a play with equal contact, and therefore a judgement play that required a judgement decision. The result was a decision that fell in line with every other decision.