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.


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