Zebra Watch Week #15

After trending downward for the last month, penalties were up in last week’s NFL action. In the 16 games, there were an average of 11.5 penalties walked off, compared to 9.4 the week before.

One crew that paid attention to recent memos was Bill Carollo and his guys. They worked the Monday night game and walked off just four flags, throwing six total against Cleveland and Philadelphia. That’s been the recent trend for prime-time games: fewer flags.

As for the teams, New England continues to lead the league in fewest penalties with 48. The Patriots are followed by Atlanta (62), Seattle (63), Buffalo (64), New York Jets (66) and the Chiefs (67).

At the other end of the spectrum the five most penalized teams after 14 games this season are: Dallas (105), Oakland (103), Tennessee (101), Green Bay (98) and Arizona (94).

Here are last week’s numbers and the overall totals for the 17 crews: …Read More!

Zebra Watch #14

Last week, the Chiefs were part of the least penalized game in the 2008 NFL season. Scott Green and his crew threw only three flags all day, and walked off just one penalty against each team.

When they host San Diego on Sunday, the Chiefs have another chance to be among the weekend’s least penalized games with the crew of Carl Cheffers working the contest. On the season, Cheffers and his group rank as the second least active crew, with 9.4 penalties per game. Cheffers worked the Chiefs season opener against New England, a game where they walked off a combined five penalties for 45 yards.

Penalties are going down, averaging a season-low 9.4 per game. The only guy who doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo was Ron Winter. His group walked off 21 penalties last week and 15 the week before. That’s why Winter’s crew is ranked as the most active referee in the league, averaging 14.2 flags per game.

One other note from the world of penalties: the Patriots are on pace to set an NFL record for the fewest penalties in a season. They have had 44 walked off against them. The record for fewest penalties in a 16-game season is 59 by Seattle in 2007. …Read More!

Zebra Watch #13

The NFL officiating world was rather quiet in week No. 13 on the schedule.

I’m sure that’s something the league office was happy about. The 16 games averaged just 10.2 penalties walked off, making it one of the quietest weekends for games on the season. The most active game was 15 penalties; that’s the fewest penalties in the most active game this season.

It’s all further evidence that the folks who run the zebras are trying to make sure they are less active and thus, less of a factor in the outcome of games.

That’s why the difference between the least active and most active crews continues to drop. This week it’s a 4.8 penalty difference between Walt Coleman’s crew (9.4 per game) and Jeff Triplette’s group (14.2 per game).

What has remained consistent all season is this: the crews with the least flags after two weeks are still the crews with the fewest penalties: Coleman, Carl Cheffers and Gene Steratore. And, the crews with the most flags after two games are still the groups with the most penalties: Jerome Boger, Ron Winter and Triplette.

Here are the numbers. …Read More!

Zebra Watch Week #12

There are always things that make you wonder about the guys in striped shirts.

And it’s not so much the guys on the field, but the folks who oversee the business of officiating in the NFL.

Take for instance the national television games, Thursday, Sunday and Monday night football. Go back to Monday night, November 10 when the 49ers and Cardinals played. In that game, Tony Corrente’s crew walked off a total of 20 penalties for 164 yards. No game that week had as many penalties and it ranks among the most penalized games of the season.

Since then, the prime-time games have had remarkably few penalties. The next Thursday night saw nine flags in the Jets-Patriots game. On Sunday night that week, the Cowboys-Redskins had just seven flags and that was from the crew of Jeff Triplette, one of the most active in the league. The Monday night game that week saw just five flags walked off in the Browns-Bills game by the crew of Jerome Boger, again one of the most active flag throwing groups in the league.

Let’s jump to last week. The Thursday night game featured the Bengals-Steelers and the crew of Ron Winter, again one of the league’s most active bunches. They walked off just six penalties. Sunday night football had the Colts-Chargers and Gene Steratore’s crew threw just eight flags and then this past Monday night, the Packers-Saints saw Walt Coleman and his guys throw just five flags.

Those three games were four of the least penalized games in the league.

It may be coincidence but I found it an interesting turn of events.

Here’s how the officials ranked last week and on the season. …Read More!

Zebra Watch #11

Everybody around the league is still trying to figure out how Scott Green and his crew got the end of the Steelers-Chargers game screwed up even with the help of instant replay.

Beyond their bad call in that case there remains this question: how could Green and his group call one team for 13 penalties and their opponent for two penalties in a game that was decided by one-point and was close throughout the entire 60 minutes?

Again, the guys in the striped shirts are human, but that type of disparity does not make sense.

Something like that stands out even more in a season where the league crews have become more consistent. For the first time this year, the difference between the most active crew in the league and the least flag happy bunch is less than five penalties per game. Walt Coleman’s crew is walking off on average 9.8 penalties per game. The three crews of Ron Winter/Jeff Triplette/Jerome Boger are doing 14.2 penalties per game.

Here are the numbers: …Read More!

Zebra Watch #10

Last Sunday in San Diego, the Chiefs had Ron Winter and his crew for the game against the Chargers. While there were a handful of plays where the Chiefs were unhappy with the crew for now blowing the whistle – specifically several pass interference calls – they actually got Winter’s crew on one of their better games. In nine games, the eight flags walked off against the Chiefs-Chargers were the second fewest of the season for that group, which is averaging 14 flags per game.

The last two weeks have seen the lightest flag activity of the NFL season. Games in week No. 10 averaged 11 penalties. The week before the average was 10.7 flags.

People wonder all the time what penalties get called most often in the league. Here are the top 10 flags from last week:

Rnk. Squad Penalty #
1. Offense False Start 35
2. Offense Holding 26
3. Defense Holding 15
4. Defense Offsides 14
5. Defense Pass Interference 10
6. Offense Pass Interference 8
7. Defense Unnecessary Roughness 7
  Defense Illegal Contact 7
9. Defense Encroachment 5
  Offense Delay of Game 5
  Punt Return Holding 5


Here are the week No. 10 numbers and the season to date for the NFL officiating crews: …Read More!

Zebra Watch #9

The NFL has reached the midway point and according to the league their officials are having a bang-up season.

Of course, don’t tell that to Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez who was hit with an offensive pass interference flag last week that should never have been thrown. Don’t ask DE Turk McBride who got docked again for a borderline roughing the passer call. And, don’t ask QB Tyler Thigpen who didn’t get a roughing the passer call when he was already on the ground and 300 pounds of Ryan Sims landed on his head.

Consistency remains a major problem in the NFL and it’s especially visible when it comes to protecting the quarterback. The league has made that an understandable priority, but they are all over the place in their rulings.

According to the league, out of 18,118 plays through the first eight weeks of the season, the NFL says 97.6 percent were properly officiated. That marks only a .1 percent drop from this same point in 2007.

“We have approximately 155 plays a game, so you’re talking about averaging three mistakes a game,” said Mike Pereira, the league’s top man in charge of the officials. “More so, they’re calls we didn’t make that we should have. That makes up probably two-thirds of that figure, but it’s right on line (with previous seasons).”

You can read more of his comments this week on FOXSPORTS.COM right here.

Here’s the one thing Pereira said that makes me shiver. In talking about player safety, he said of his officials:

“If you have any doubt, throw (the flag),” Pereira said. “I’m encouraging our guys to do that. That’s where we need to be in terms of player safety.”

There’s a fine line between player safety and taking the guts out of the game. The NFL needs to make sure it does not go too far, or they might as well make the sport flag football.

Here’s how Pereira’s boys did last week: …Read More!

Zebra Watch #8

Chiefs fans will get to see Mr. Muscles on Sunday. The crew handling the Chiefs-Buccaneers game at Arrowhead Stadium is led by Ed Hochuli.

Over the last several years, Hochuli has become a bit a lightning rod among the striped shirts for criticism from within and without the league. At one time, he was the head of the NFL officials association. He also never seems to shy away from TV time, as his crew has always been one of the league’s most active groups. Then there are those guns; Hochuli spends plenty of time in the weight room and loves showing off those biceps.

He took a big hit earlier this season when his call on what was a fumble, but ruled an incompletion may have kept the San Diego Chargers from beating the Denver Broncos. Hochuli apologized on the field to San Diego coach Norv Turner and then began answering e-mail from fans on the subject until the league office told him to stop.

It’s been an interesting season for Hochuli’s crew. They began the year as one of the most active, averaging 15.4 penalties for 127 yards over their first five games. But in the last two games, they’ve averaged just six flags for 53 yards.

Why the big drop? That’s the stuff that makes people wonder about the consistency of the officiating in the league from week to week.

Hochuli and his crew are coming off a weekend where they stayed at home. …Read More!

Zebra Watch #7

So much for the Chiefs having an officiating crew that doesn’t like to throw flags.

Last week at Arrowhead Stadium, Gene Steratore’s crew handled the Titans—Chiefs game. That group came in averaging nine penalties a game. Last Sunday, they had 16 flags, one of the most penalized games in the league. They split those evenly between the teams.

That performance knocked Steratore’s crew out of our top spot for fewest flags. That honor now belongs to Walt Coleman’s crew, averaging 9.3 penalties per game. The gap between least active and most active is closing a bit. Jeff Triplette’s crew is averaging 16.2 penalties per game. They had just 10 in their game last week.

That’s a 6.9 penalty gap. A month ago the difference between top and bottom was 10.5 penalties. Hopefully that means there’s more consistency in the officiating from crew to crew.

I do know this: if you are the home team and you see you’ve got Terry McAulay’s crew, you like your chances. The home team is 6-0 with that group in charge.

The best crews for road teams are Steratore, Bill Carollo and Tony Corrente. All have had visitors win four of their games this year. …Read More!

NFL Zebra Watch Week #6

This Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs and Titans will go head to head and the officiating crew that will handle the game is one of the league’s best.

At this point in the season, Gene Steratore and his crew have averaged the fewest accepted penalties of any of the league’s 17 officiating crews. Steratore and his group average nine flags per game.

That’s nearly half of the most active crew in the league at this point. Jeff Triplette’s group has seen an average of 17.4 penalties per game walked off.

Again, that’s a huge difference in officiating consistency. The most flags Steratore’s crew has marked off in six games was 13. Triplette’s crew has had games with 19, 21 and 22 penalties accepted. There fewest in five games was 11 penalties.

Steratore’s crew does not tend to overthrow their flags in any one area. Their favorite penalty is illegal contact on the defense. They call more pass interference calls against the offense than the defense. …Read More!

Zebra Watch Week #5

Here’s a quick update on our weekly look at the NFL officials and their effect on the game. Here are the numbers from the fifth weekend of games.

Before we get to the details, check out this Peter King story on NFL Commish Roger Goodell giving his referees a peop talk this week.

The Commish might want to talk to his guys about inconsistency, because the differences in their crews is starting to really show themselves. Walt Coleman’s crew threw just six flags, with five accepted in the San Diego-Miami game. At the other end of the spectrum was Bill Carollo’s crew that threw 24 flags, with 21 walked off in the Tennessee-Baltimore game. That’s four times the number of flags.

Ed Hochuli and his crew were busy again, with 18 flags accepted. Same with Ron Winter’s group, that also had 18 penalties walked off. Those were both near their season averages, which rank among the busiest crews in the league. …Read More!

Zebra Watch #3

After three games there’s one statistical category where the Chiefs find themselves near the top of the NFL: fewest penalties.

They rank fourth with just 10 flags walked off against them. Whether it’s them or the crews may be visible this Sunday when they host the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.

It’s my theory that sometimes the teams that have the fewest flags thrown against them get those stats because of the crews that work their games. Same for the teams that have the most flags. Because there’s such a difference between the crews from most frequent flaggers to least frequent, it can make a difference.

So far the Chiefs have had the crews of Carl Cheffers, Walt Anderson and Scott Green. Cheffers (1) and Green (3) and their crews rank at the top of the league in fewest flags thrown after three weeks. Anderson’s crew ranks sixth in fewest flags.

This Sunday, Mike Carey is scheduled to bring his crew into Arrowhead. So far this season his guys are averaging 13 flags in each of the two games they worked.

So, here’s how last week’s crews did and the overall rankings after three weeks. …Read More!

Zebra Watch #1

One of the most important elements to any football game are the guys in the striped shirts.

The NFL has done a great job in the last two years in trying to make the officiating less of a factor and the evidence of that is the drop in the last two years in penalties.

Consistency is the ultimate goal and while those in charge of the league have made progress there, sometimes there’s way too much of a distance between the penalties called by the most active crew and the number of flags thrown by the least active crew. In the first week, there were crews who threw five and six flags, and there were crews that threw 20 and 21 flags. On a one week basis, that can happen. Over the season, there should not be that much of a difference.

One of the things we plan to do each week is update you on the officials, how busy are they and what we might see and look for in the way of trends around the league. …Read More!


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