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1 blown call does not ruin playoff chances



When discussing football officiating, it is easy to say, “Forget so-and-so for the playoff this year after that blown call.”  While fans might wish a playoff blackball for an official who makes an error, the NFL simply does not operate that way.

The NFL officiating department command center in New York City where videotape of every play of every game is thoroughly examined. (NFL handout photo)

The NFL officiating office lead by Carl Johnson uses many factors in assigning an official to a playoff game and the Super Bowl.  Johnson and his officiating supervisors painstakingly examine game film to grade officials on their accuracy in making calls, positioning while making the calls, and general game administration (game flow, pacing, and efficiency in making rulings and penalty enforcements).  Officials also have to pass multiple written rules tests before and during the season and meet physical fitness standards.  All of those factors are mixed together to give an official his final grade.  Not only does the grade help Johnson determine playoff officials, it also determines if an official is performing at minimum standards required for employment.

The NFL makes sure that one controversy or officiating mistake does not automatically disqualify an official from the playoffs.  For instance, when Ed Hochuli blew an inadvertent whistle in 2008 in a game between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, depriving the Chargers of a game-clinching fumble recovery, many armchair officials predicted that Hochuli would not make the playoffs that year.  Hochuli was assigned a playoff game.  The Clete Blakeman crew timing gaffe in Week 10 is not the first time there’s been a timing error.  In 2005, Bill Carollo’s crew had an almost exact same timing error.  While Carollo didn’t receive a playoff game, line judge Byron Boston, who was in charge of making sure the stadium clock was accurate, got assigned a playoff game.

Us officiating fans or amateur officials can make our own assessments on who is deserving a playoff or Super Bowl assignment, but the NFL’s rubric of grading officials is much more complicated and intricate than what we see on TV or in the stands.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"