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NFL Officials Constantly Face Further Review
The gaffes are tallied. A failure to call a penalty that should have been called is a six-point deduction. Calling a penalty that wasn't a penalty is a 10-point deduction. An incorrect judgment is a deduction of anywhere from six to 10 points, depending on the severity. A perfect score would be 100.
"I haven't seen too many of those," Pereira said. "It happens sometimes, but not very often."
Each individual official gets a grade, and the officiating crew as a whole gets a grade. A computer printout with all the grades comes out late Wednesday, and they're distributed.
At the end of the season, the grades are added up and the eight highest-ranking officiating crews qualify for the first two rounds of the playoffs. Those crews stay intact to work the first two weekends of the postseason. The final two rounds of the postseason, the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, are worked by mixed crews consisting of the highest-ranked officials at each position. (There also is an experience requirement; rookies can't work the playoffs and it takes five years to be eligible for the Super Bowl.)
At the other end of the spectrum, the grades also determine which officials are in danger of being dismissed. The league sets what it regards as a minimum standard, and any official whose grade for the season falls below that standard is put on probation. If the same official misses the standard for a second straight season, he's in jeopardy of being dismissed. The average annual turnover, including retirements, is about six officials, Pereira said. After last season, it was seven.
An officiating crew is graded on about 2,200 plays per season. Hochuli botched one. But it was a memorable one, and an uproar followed. Hochuli reportedly was deluged with hate mail and responded with e-mailed apologies. With a few exceptions, officials are prohibited from speaking to the media. The NFL Referees Association came to his defense, issuing a statement of support. The Chargers were left with an 0-2 record after the 39-38 defeat and did their best to move on.
"Anything that we talk about or anything that is discussed in terms of any of the rules or any of the calls isn't going to change the outcome of that game," their coach, Norv Turner, said at a news conference. "That game is going to be 39-38 forever."
The NFL's competition committee likely will review the play in the offseason and might consider changing the rule that prohibited Hochuli from awarding the ball to the Chargers after viewing the replay. The league changed its rule in early 2007 to allow possession to be awarded to the defense when it recovers a fumble on a play on which it originally was ruled, wrongly, that the offensive player was down by contact before fumbling and the whistle was blown.
"It's going to require a great deal of discussion," Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher, a co-chairman of the competition committee, said at a news conference.
But a former member of the committee, Charley Casserly, said he doesn't see the rule being changed.
"He was definitive in his call," Casserly, the former general manager of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, said in a telephone interview. "The whistle is blown, and some players are gonna stop playing. It's dramatically different than a down-by-contact call where everything happens in a close proximity. In this narrow set of circumstances, I don't see a solution to it. The call was missed. Sometimes calls get missed. It's not fair. This one got talked about a little more, but calls get missed every week."
Pereira will be back in his office today, watching all those TV screens to see which calls are right and which aren't and hoping that another major controversy isn't ignited.
"Everyone felt horrible," Pereira said. "Ed felt horrible. It's a mistake, and we don't want to make mistakes. We strive for perfection. You don't get there very often. If I had to be perfect in my job, I wouldn't last here a day. But that's the goal."