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Anderson and crew will be downgraded, but no further discipline

The NFL will not fine or suspend any members of Walt Anderson’s crew  for some missed calls in a controversial Monday Night Football game between the Seahawks and Bills.

In the past, the NFL has fined officials game checks and suspended officials due to judgement calls, rule misapplications, or administrative errors.

Anderson’s crew, like all crews, will be graded for each call they make I can just about guarantee that the end-of-half sequence in Seattle on Monday night will get a bad grade. But for fans, a bad grade is not enough.

Many NFL fans want accountability. They want officials suspended, fined, or fired every week. But do those consequences actually improve officiating?

Barry Mano is the president of the National Association of Sports Officials and publisher of Referee magazine. He contends that fines and suspensions will not improve officiating.

So the NFL and all other professional and college sports need to answer this question when they suspend or fine their officials: Are they doing it to punish? Are they doing it to satisfy a fan base? Or, are they doing it to improve officiating? Any official who has been fined or suspended will tell you, the punishment didn’t make them a better official. But it might take the heat off the front office and help some aggrieved fans feel like they got some justice.

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Mark Schultz
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?"

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9 thoughts on “Anderson and crew will be downgraded, but no further discipline

  1. The reason a bad grade is not enough is that the NFL rarely declines to offer a contract to an official based on on-field performance. If you look at NHL or NBA, there are officials each year whose contracts are not renewed because the league is not satisfied with their development as officials. In MLB, once you are promoted to full-time staff it is almost impossible to be fired even if you are Andy Fletcher or Marty Foster. However, not everybody who comes through the minor league ranks gets a shot at MLB and not every vacation/injury replacement gets hired to the full time staff. Rather than using veterans as swing officials, maybe it would be better to use first and second year officials that the league is considering hiring and see how they are progressing. If the performance is not there, weed them out early by not transferring them to regular crews.

  2. All due respect to the guy who runs the Referees’ trade organization, but if a guy makes a call so bad that the NFL has to apologize for it, and that guy is working my team’s game the next week, I’m going worry he’s going to blow it again. Suspending officials for obviously terrible calls 100% improves perceived quality of officiating.

    (And that assumes that players themselves don’t think “HL X didn’t catch the guy horsecollar his opponent out of bounds last week. That crew is working my game this week. I wonder if I can get away with it.”)

    If we can’t suspend or fine guys for bad calls, maybe the answer is allowing for multi-year downgrades. How about if you make a call so bad that the league has to apologize, you get a downgrade this year AND next year.

  3. The NFL is as much to blame for the poor officiating as the officials anyway. For example, they ask the officials to watch the playclock and the snap at the same time, an impossible task. In a lot of ways, they set the officials up for failure.

  4. Why would the NFL suspend an official and subsequently put a lesser official on the field in his place? What’s accomplished by doing that?

    If suspensions/fines are such effective tools, perhaps teams should suspend or fine players for turnovers, dropped passes, missed tackles, blown assignments, etc.

  5. The joke is that if any of Anderson’s Big 12 officials did that, he would sit them out at least a week. He is snake…ask those who have worked under (not “for”) him.

  6. @ Jerome, I guess you know him and you are on TARGET! I seriously doubt he would have stood behind “his” guys this way. Just wondering if Blandino’s hands were tied by the union?

  7. I’m glad to see that the refs are being graded and not punished. If the NFL feels that they have the best available officials, removing this crew and substituting others (who the league didn’t want in the first place) makes no sense.

    On a more global level, finding and retaining good officials is becoming increasingly difficult. Fines and suspensions for one-time errors only make it more difficult to keep officials. I’d like to think that they only weed out the “bad apples” but in reality they would tend to fall on both the sheep and the goats–and would probably amplify the already-too-political nature of how referees’ associations work.

    I’d like to believe that there are 100’s of football officials who are better than the current NFL refs, and who are just waiting for an opportunity. Given the nature of officiating, though, I suspect that what is currently on the field represents very close to the absolute best available. I haven’t seen much on the field in college football that makes me think those guys would be any better at the next level.

  8. I think the referee union and CBA protects the officials too much. I know I’m comparing these situations to soccer a lot, but that is where my expertise lies. In soccer, if you make a big mistake, you don’t get big games for a while, and you’ll be relegated to lower divisions (and a much smaller paycheck). NFL doesn’t have D-leagues or minor leagues, so they can’t do that. I’d say the best course of action for those officials would be to give them an extra bye week, take them off the primetime games, or switch out the officials responsible for the no-call with swing ones. The officials should be paid on a per-game basis, so if you don’t work a week, you don’t get a paycheck. They are contracted work and should be treated as such.

  9. what a joke if there are no consequences why should they improve. I wish fans would speak with their wallets and tv remotes over the horrible officiating since players and coaches can’t. 🙁 same teams over and over is getting boring and waiting until a game is over to start calling penalties on the “chosen” team is disgusting

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