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Wading through the patterns and behaviors of NFL officiating crews

By Pat McManamon

Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress was asked about all the holding penalties called on the Browns (and Steelers) in the Browns win last Sunday.

It was a good question.

“You’d have to ask Carl Paganelli,” Childress said. “That’s the umpire by the way.”

Ron Winter’s crew was clearly flag happy. At one point the Browns had two holding penalties on consecutive possessions.

To hear Childress, it might not have been unexpected. He said the Browns scout officiating crews the way they do teams and that statistics on the number of calls made by refereeing crews are readily available.

They also probably know that certain crews emphasize certain plays, or certain penalties.

Two games ago in Dallas, Ed Hochuli’s crew seemed fixated on illegal contact penalties.

Winter’s crew seemed obligated to flag a player for holding every three plays in the second half.

Childress said all teams have a good idea what crew calls what, and what crews call more penalties than the norm.

To make the point, Childress dredged up an old image from NFL Films.

“We know if we feel like the crew are over-officious jerks, to quote Marv Levy,” Childress said. “We have opinions about certainly all those crews, and some fall more in that category than others.”

Levy was caught back in the day coaching the Kansas City Chiefs telling an assistant coach he went to high school with an official, then later yelling at the official, “Hey you over-officious jerk!”

Did Childress feel that Winter’s crew fell in that category?

“I’d leave that up to you guys,” Childress said.

OK, then. We accept the challenge.

While it’s impossible to say if they were jerks, it can be clearly stated that Sunday’s officials was over-officious (doest that word even exist?).  Their constant calls completely disrupted the flow of the game. The comeback, of course, is the flags were thrown because guys held, but the bromide that holding can be called on every play applies. It should be egregious when flagged. Just because officials can throw the flag doesn’t always mean they should.

Childress also said the coaching staff advises the team when they see which officials will be at the game. The numbers are available, and they tell players the officiating crew’s pattern.

“Without a doubt,” Childress said. “The numbers are a matter of record, so you can just look and see how’s ringing up who for how much.”

Translation: No teams hopes for the crew of over-officious … umm … fellas.

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