Sunday, September 28, 2008

NFL Continues To Enforce Gag Rule -- Who Will Critique Referees?

The NFL continues its harsh gag rule against owners, coaches, and players from saying anything negative about referees, even if it's just a honest comment that a referee made a mistake in the game. I can understand a rule that bans any horrible accusation that a referee is intentionally cheating, but why the gag rule where you can't even say the truth -- that a referee made a human error and one of his calls was a mistake?

With the gag rule against NFL players, owners, and coaches, there should be more discussion and criticism by sportswriters. Or does the NFL have an unwritten gag rule against sportswriters? Do they feel like they have to stay on the NFL's good side to keep getting access to the players and coaches?

Let's look at the gag rule so far.

Jerry Jones commented on Ed Hochuli's mistake in the Broncos-Chargers game. The NFL fined Cowboys owner Jerry Jones $25,000. Saints coach Sean Payton criticized referees after a 34-32 loss to the Denver Broncos and the NFL fined him $15,000. Chargers coach Norv Turner was nearly fined for saying that Ed Hochuli's mistake was unacceptable -- only barely escaping a fine because he limited it to one word, did not make any other negative remarks, and said no comment when he was asked about it by reporters later that week. Yes, the NFL rewards people financially for saying no comment to reporters.

(Sean Payton was complaining about an offsides penalty that the referees did not call against the Broncos Jamie Winbown.)

According to, the NFL will now only impose fines if there is criticism of the integrity of officiating, even though the NFL constitution prohibits all criticism, regardless of whether it touches on integrity. That doesn't make sense, because Cowboys owner Jerry Jones only criticized how Ed Hochuli's crew calls many penalties and is highly criticized -- I don't see any attack on his integrity.

Sean Payton said therew as a violation that should have been called but wasn't and it's not a judgment call. I don't see any attack on anybody's integrity, just a missed call.

If the rules are unclear, the bottom line is that everyone in the NFL will be quiet rather than risk tens of thousands of dollars. Where are the sportswriters to fill in the gap of the gagged coaches, players, and owners?

Ed Hochuli Again In The Spotlight

Ed Hochuli was already in the hot seat for his call in the game between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. Now, another controversial call in the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers. Julius Peppers hit Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and referee Ed Hochuli called it roughing the passer for a helmet-to-helmet hit, although replays show that it was not a good call. It's controversial because it negated what would have been an interception by the Carolina Panthers that they returned for a touchdown.

Do the referee tendencies from the first three weeks of 2008 and the 2007 season show anything?

One theory is that some referees unconsciously help the home team more than others. That doesn't really explain Ed Hochuli's two calls because one helped the home team (the Broncos) and one helped the visiting team (the Falcons).

Another theory is that some referees call a game that helps the offense more and on average that would tend to lead to higher scoring games. Ed Hochuli's two calls each helped the offense. He threw the flag before he knew the interception would be returned for a touchdown so it might be consistent with higher-scoring games. Over the first 3 weeks of 2008, Ed Hochuli is 3rd of 17 in penalties per game and 8th of 17 in total points per game. In 2007, he was 5th of 17 in penalties per game and 3rd of 17 in total points per game.

The statistics only slightly suggest perhaps a tendency to help the offense. Might just be bad calls by chance by Ed Hochuli.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

NFL 2008 Referee Statistics through Week 3 (9/22/2008)

Let's kick off our 2008 NFL referee statistics with analysis through week 3 (through September 22, 2008)! Send your questions, ideas, suggestions in comments to this posting.

Of several potential areas to track, let's start off with the total number of accepted penalties per game and the total number of accepted penalty yards per game. We can also look at the average penalty yards per accepted penalty (which referees have large-yardage penalties?)

Total accepted penalties
Jeff Triplette is obliterating the competition through the first three weeks of the season, averaging 18 penalties per game! Next four are Jerome Boger (14.5), Ed Hochuli (14.3), and Tony Corrente and John Parry (tied with 14.0).
At the bottom, Carl Cheffers and Gene Steratore are tied with 8.7 per game.

Total penalty yards
Not a surprise that Jeff Triplette is also burning up the scoreboard on total penalty yards (137 per game). Terry McAulay follows at 118 per game then a clustering of six referees at 107-112 per game.
At the bottom, Carl Cheffers is low-man with 61 per game followed by Scott Green (70) and Gene Steratore (72).

Yards per penalty
Who has the largest yards per penalty? Terry McAulay is far in the lead (9.8 per penalty) followed by Mike Carey (8.5) and Gene Steratore (8.3).
At the bottom are Walt Anderson (6.5) and Bill Leavy (6.9).

Points per game
We have not done adjustments for the teams in each game (it's a bit early in the season to do team adjustments), so here are some raw numbers, no doubt affected by the teams assigned to the referees:
Highest points per game is Terry McAulay (66.5) and Peter Morelli (59). At the bottom are Tony Corrente (31.3), John Parry (33.7), and Walt Anderson (34).

Week 3 Cheat Sheet
For this week's cheat sheet, we list the referee followed by: rank in total accepted penalties (1st is largest), rank in total penalty yards (1st is largest), rank in points per penalty (1st is largest), and total points per game. Doubt you'll see these posted on your television during the game, although I think they should be!

Walt Anderson (10, 12, 17, 34.0)
Jerome Boger (2, 7, 10, 53.0)
Mike Carey (7, 6, 2, 38.5)
William Carollo (11, 10, 12, 47.3)
Carl Cheffers (16, 17, 14, 38.3)
Walt Coleman (14, 13, 11, 53.7)
Tony Corrente (4, 5, 5, 31.3)
Scott Green (15, 16, 15, 38.3)
Ed Hochuli (3, 3, 6, 46.0)
Bill Leavy (8, 11, 16, 51.0)
Terry McAulay (12, 2, 1, 66.5)
Peter Morelli (13, 14, 13, 59.0)
John Parry (5, 4, 4, 33.7)
Alberto Riveron (9, 9, 8, 38.7)
Gene Steratore (17, 15, 3, 39.7)
Jeff Triplette (1, 1, 9, 41.7)
Ron Winter (6, 8, 7, 52.7)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, and Side Judge Rick Patterson

Can someone fill me in on the controversy with side judge Rick Patterson and his performance in the Jaguars-Colts game in week 3 on September 21, 2008.

Browsing the web, I see some comments about not calling pass interference on an interception that Rashean Mathis returned for a TD after grabbing Marvin Harrison's jersey (but this might not have been by side judge Rick Patterson).

Is it perhaps in the fourth quarter when David Garrard threw a short pass for wide receiver Reggie Williams and an official called pass interference on Freddie Keiaho of the Colts? Was that Rick Patterson's call? I don't think that would be the biggest controversy because the NFL told Tony Dungy that it was a good call, but Tony Dungy would not reveal the blown calls, no doubt because the NFL has a gag rule that silences coaches from commenting on referee mistakes.

Can someone post a comment that explains what call was the controversial one by side judge Rick Patterson?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Week 3 NFL Referee Schedule

Please post comments if you see reports on which referee will be covering which game in week 3.

  • Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: Ed Hochuli (according to Ken Murray at the Baltimore Sun).
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears: Tony Corrente (according to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Sun-Times).
  • Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants: Jeff Triplette

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hochuli Admits Mistake, Owner Comments On Referee's Performance

Let's take a look at what for NFL standards was unsual about Ed Hochuli's mistake in the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos game in week two (Sunday, September 14, 2008).

Is it unusual for a referee to make a mistake? No.

Is it unusual for the NFL to acknowledge publicly that a referee made a mistake? Sadly, the answer is yes! It is unusual for the NFL to admit to the public that any of its referees actually made a mistake at any point during a game. The NFL usually admits privately to one of the teams about mistakes, but strangely does not admit it to the public most of the time. Why not? Can you think of a reason why the NFL is so secretive about human error by any of its referees? Let's use blogs and message boards to raise the level of discussion and point out errors by referees. Referees are human and they make mistakes -- mistakes do not necessarily mean that the referee is trying to cheat any team. Scientists talk all the time about unconscious bias (perhaps swayed by the cheering fans?) -- why can't we talk about it?

Is it unusual for the NFL to discuss grading the referees? Yes, that is also unusual. The NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that officials are held accountable for their calls and that Ed Hochuli "has been an outstanding official for many years, but he will be marked down for this call."

Is it unusual for an NFL coach or owner to comment on referee performance? Yes, very unusual. This is because the NFL has a policy of issuing fines against coaches, players, and owners who talk about referees. With this gag order, sportswriters and bloggers should pick up the slack and have intelligent discussions about referee errors.

Denver coach Mike Shanahan said Ed Hochuli's crew was the best in the last 20 crews he graded (yes, the coaches grade the referees and keep secret their opinions from the public!). Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Ed Hochuli "gets a lot of criticism. He's a highly criticized official in the NFL." Wow, owners and coaches actually commenting on referee performance!

Post some comments on whether there should be more coverage of referee errors and performance -- and whether the NFL is wrong for gagging people from commenting on referee mistakes.

Mistakes happen, the gag order seems just plain un-American.