The NY Jets were robbed of a potential win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football by an egregiously bad holding penalty against cornerback Sauce Gardner in the fourth quarter of the team's 23-20 loss last night.
Gardner was penalized for a hold on Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a play that should have resulted in a Michael Carter II interception. Instead, the NFL referees intervened, costing the Jets an opportunity to pull off the improbable upset.
Not only was the "penalty" not actually the correct call, but referee Frank Steratore threw the flag well after it supposedly occurred. Despite the "hold" happening while Patrick Mahomes still had the ball in his hands, the flag wasn't thrown until after Carter's interception was secured.
Needless to say, Steratore and the NFL have been getting bashed by seemingly every analyst and really anyone with a set of eyes who watched Sunday night's game. But who is Frank Steratore? Who is the referee who potentially cost the Jets one of their biggest wins in years?
Who is Frank Steratore?
Steratore is one of 14 "rookie" officials this season, meaning that this is his first year as an NFL referee. Of course, his name should sound familiar to longtime fans of the league, as officiating runs in his family.
His cousins, Gene and Tony Steratore, were both longtime NFL officials who spent over two decades in the league before calling it quits in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Frank is looking to follow in their footsteps.
The youngest Steratore previously spent time as a college basketball referee and later a college football official for the Big Ten. He also served as one of the USFL's referees this past season.
This is, however, his first year in the NFL. Of course, the blame can't all be placed on Steratore, especially given the equally egregious missed holding penalty on Jermaine Johnson earlier in the drive.
That penalty, or lack thereof, likely falls on head referee Alex Kemp, whose crew was assigned to Sunday night's game. Kemp, another NFL official with family ties (his father Stan is a former NFL referee), is in his sixth season as a head referee.
Kemp's crew is known for their quick draw when it comes to penalty flags. His crew ranked first in the NFL in illegal contact penalties in 2022, is tied for first this season in defensive pass interference calls, and ranks second in roughing the passer penalties.
Perhaps what happened on Sunday night shouldn't come as a surprise then. Two officials in the NFL through the league's unofficial nepotistic pathway program made shameful calls that directly changed the outcome of the game.
Unfortunately, this seems to happen every week in the NFL, and there are never any repercussions. Players receive penalties and fines. NFL referees are immune to discipline.
The league might issue an apology, just as they did following the Jets' Week 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but what's done is done. Frank Steratore and Alex Kemp will walk away without any ramifications from their game-altering mistakes.