Sunday, July 29, 2007

NFL Referee Tendency Does Not Necessarily Mean Cheating

One of the goals of this blog is to focus on referee performance, particularly NFL referees. As Michael Lewis pointed out in his book "The Blind Side," different NFL referees have their own particular tendencies. For example, one referee might consistently call holding more often than another. A referee's tendency (or bias in favor of calling holding) does not necessarily mean the referee is cheating, though. It's possible the ref just has a slightly different view of the rules and calls it closer than others. What would be important is that the ref calls it the same throughout the season and regardless of whether it's the home team, away team, favorites, or the underdogs.

Let's take it from there, though. Let's say that a ref has a particular tendency and is not cheating. What sports writers or blogs are covering referees' tendencies? Do some referees tend to have games with higher point totals than expected? Call more or less penalties than expected? Have the favored teams win more often than expected? That's where crunching the numbers over the course of an NFL season might reveal some interesting information.

What I find surprising is that sports writers and television commentators are not already doing this much more. Why -- do they think that commenting on a ref somehow suggests they are cheaters? That's not true, they might be honest people with their own particular tendencies.

If you are wondering whether NFL referees might have a cheater in its midst (like NBA referee Tim Donaghy), you would not be the only one wondering. Mike Biachi raised that in "It's a sure thing the NBA isn't the only league in an embarrassing fix" in the Orlando Sentinel and Mike Sando on wrote in "NFL referees face layers of scrutiny" that the NFL is guarding against that possibility.

Post a comment if you have some suggestions for how to crunch the 2006 NFL season referee statistics to look for unusual deviations. In the meantime, I'll focus on referee tendencies, without necessarily suggesting that variations between referees necessarily mean anyone is cheating.


Post a Comment

<< Home