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2017 Postseason

More than 20 officials are not playoff caliber

Sources tell Football Zebras that the number of playoff-disqualified officials has reached new heights



Football Zebras exclusive

It is a recurring question among fans if the performance of officials is getting better or worse. Postseason assignments can be a barometer of officials that have not made the grade by examining those excluded, and sources tell Football Zebras that the number of disqualified officials has reached new heights.

Multiple sources have stated that at least 20 officials, potentially as much as 25, have received “negative letters” from the league and will not work the postseason in a field or alternate capacity. This means out of the 118 possible officials — excluding the 8 rookie officials — there would be 95 officials to fill 70 available positions and 35 alternates. While the first-year officials may be given an alternate, that still leaves a gap that requires some officials to be double assigned.

The specific officials were not divulged to us by our sources, but this will become academic in a few weeks when all the playoff assignments have been ascertained.

Update 1/16: After counting up the officials who did not receive assignments, subtracting the first-year officials who are not eligible for assignment, and the 3 officials who are injured, 24 officials were specifically excluded from the postseason.

By comparing this to recent seasons, this is well above average. Not including known injuries, the number of officials that did not receive a postseason field or alternate assignment has been no more than the mid-teens since the last collective bargaining agreement was signed:

  • 2016 — 10 officials
  • 2015 — 16 officials
  • 2014 — 11 officials
  • 2013 — 15 officials
  • 2012 — 7 officials

The league informed officials who will not receive playoff assignment right after the Wild Card assignments were handed out on Tuesday. This is a courtesy to allow them to avoid being on standby when their services are not needed.

Does this mean that there will be doubling up of playoff officials on the field? In recent seasons, only the Super Bowl crew gets a second assignment in the Divisional Playoffs. We asked the league for clarification if the assignment procedures were different this season under new senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron, and they declined to comment.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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