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NewsUnbalanced stat sheet prompts push to pull Morelli from Eagles games

Unbalanced stat sheet prompts push to pull Morelli from Eagles games

When it comes to officiating in every sport, at every level, most fans will tend to comment that the officials are out to get their team. Will Philbrick of Little Rock, Ark., has taken this concept to a new level.

In a petition started on Change.org, Philbrick has proposed banning referee Pete Morelli from working all Philadelphia Eagles games. At the time this post was written, the petition has received over 66,000 online signatures. This petition came to light following the Thursday Night Football contest between the Eagles and the Carolina Panthers, where Morelli’s crew penalized the Eagles 10 times for 120 yards, and the Panthers only once for 1 yard. The foul against Carolina came on an extra point, where Philadelphia enforced the penalty to attempt a two-point conversion from the 1-yard line.

The NFL Referees Association is fighting back against the claims of bias, which have been discussed in the Philadelphia media in addition to the petition.

“Claims like these demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about NFL officiating,” said Scott Green, executive director of the officials union in a statement. “NFL officials are graded on every call made in every game. Missing a single one can hurt his or her ranking and may be the difference between working in the postseason or not.”

Since being promoted to referee in 2003, Morelli has worked 15 combined regular season and postseason games in which the Eagles were a participant. Philadelphia has won eight of those games. In those 15 games that span 15 seasons, Morelli has not traveled with the same crew. As usual, crew assignments change every year, and in Morelli’s case he currently doesn’t have anyone left from his 2015 crew. In addition, the number of fouls that Morelli is responsible for, as with any position, is specifically focused. As a referee in the offensive backfield on every play, his major keys include roughing the passer and kicker, intentional grounding, and pre-snap fouls that include false starts, formations, and the number of offensive players. This only accounts for a small portion of fouls that are flagged per game.

The petition uses the last 4 games as its limited dataset to make its point. Green points out, “Without the proper perspective, the information being pushed is completely misguided.”

In those 4 games, Morelli has had 17 officials in the 6 positions on his crew. Below are all the Eagles games Morelli has worked since being promoted to referee, with the number of fouls called.

All things considered, a ban can’t be worse than being locked up in Veterans Stadium jail.

  PHI Pen/Yds Fouls* Opp Opp Pen/Yds Opp Fouls*
10/12/2017 10/126 10 CAR 1/1 4
10/9/2016 14/111 14 DET 2/18 3
12/6/2015 8/97 11 NE  3/30 5
9/29/2013 8/62 8 DEN 2/25 3
11/26/2012 5/30 8 CAR 6/101 7
12/1/2011 5/28 7 SEA 5/30 6
1/9/2011 7/50 8 GB 2/15 3
10/18/2009 4/38 5 OAK 3/23 5
9/7/2008 4/41 4 STL 9/66 10
12/23/2007 4/29 6 NO 6/64 6
1/7/2007 6/77 7 NYG 9/55 10
9/10/2006 5/51 5 HOU 3/20 4
10/2/2005 3/25 4 KC 6/40 6
1/16/2005 4/20 6 MIN 7/108 7
12/27/2004 13/95 16 STL 7/55 9
*Fouls include accepted, declined, and offset. (Penalties and yards only include those accepted.)
Wild Card playoff. Divisional playoff.

Statement from the NFL Referees Association

WASHINGTON – The NFL Referees Association strongly denounces recent media reports alleging bias in NFL officiating.

“Claims like these demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about NFL officiating,” said NFLRA Executive Director Scott Green. “NFL officials are graded on every call made in every game. Missing a single one can hurt his or her ranking and may be the difference between working in the postseason or not.”

“These recent attempts to sensationalize statistics and create click-bait headlines lack important context,” Green continued. “Without the proper perspective, the information being pushed is completely misguided.”

For example:

  • The reports incorrectly focus solely on number of penalties called and the total yardage assessed on a team compared to its opponent.
    • This relies solely on end-of-game statistics, which are not an accurate picture of the game’s called penalties. It fails to take into account that some penalties that are called are declined.
    • Conversely, not all penalty yardage is equal. Team A may be assessed 30 penalty yards via six separate five-yard fouls, but Team B could be assessed 30 yards through one pass interference penalty.
  • Finally, to insinuate that a specific crew is historically biased against a team fails to consider the reality that crews are made up of different officials each season.

“The passion of NFL fans and teams are a big part of what makes the game so great,” Green said. “However, it’s no excuse for the irresponsible and baseless claims we’ve seen lately.  NFL officials are committed to upholding the integrity of the game and do so every week.”

Photo: Philadelphia Eagles/Drew Hallowell

Updated 10/19 to add the statement from the NFLRA.

Cameron Filipe
Cameron Filipe
Cam Filipe is a sophomore at the University of New Haven, majoring in forensic science. He has been involved in football officiating for six years and currently works as a flag football and soccer official in college. This is his third season covering officiating as a staff writer for Football Zebras.

3 thoughts on “Unbalanced stat sheet prompts push to pull Morelli from Eagles games

  1. What happened to Morelli between the 2012 and 2013 season? He appears to be calling them overwhelmingly against the Eagles compared to their opponents in the last three games he officiated. Could just be a coincidence? Then again, with NFL officiating, it could be a whole lot more.

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