Did the Redskins end up on the wrong end of a couple of borderline calls that changed the course of their game against Carolina due to the men in stripes not liking the team name? Or is there a much simpler but perhaps, in the big picture of the NFL, more troubling explanation for the head-scratching flags?
There is no evidence for the first hypothesis beyond Jason Hatcher’s disappointment-fueled speculation after the game. But ESPN Stats and Info has come up with some interesting numbers that show that the Redskins may simply have been unlucky enough to have the crew of referee Jerome Boger assigned to the their game.
Through 10 games this season, Boger’s crew has averaged 20.8 penalty flags thrown per game (counting accepted, declined, and offsetting). That’s the highest average of any NFL officiating crew and about 50 percent more than the crew that calls the fewest penalties (headed by Bill Vinovich, 13.6 flags per game).
This should raise some eyebrows. Is Boger’s crew really assigned to games between teams that are more prone to commit penalties compare to the crew headed by Vinovich? That seems doubtful after a fairly strong sample size. It’s more likely that the two crews are very different in the way the interpret and enforce the rules.
Not only is Boger’s crew more flag happy, they are more apt to throw flags for penalties like unnecessary roughness, taunting, and unsportsmanlike conduct—in other words, the type of penalty that Chris Culliver was hit with—than any other crew. They have thrown 21 such flags this year, over three times more than the crew that has thrown the fewest.
The other flag that drew the ire of some players and many watching the game was a holding call on Jordan Reed that wiped out a Kirk Cousins read option run down to the Panthers three yard line.
“The Jordan Reed holding call to me shows an official who has no idea what blocking in the NFL is,” for Redskins tight end and current radio analyst Chris Cooley said on ESPN 980 via the DC Sports Bog. “It’s not a hold. [Reed] gets his hands inside, he jars the defender, who kind of leans forward because he’s jarred by the hands of Jordan Reed. And then as the defender tries to turn and make a play on the ball, Jordan Reed lets go. It isn’t a hold.”
As you might have guessed by now, no crew throws more flags for offensive holding than Boger’s crew. They are tied with Jeff Triplette’s group for most in the league with 40. It would have been better had Reed executed his block with Gene Steratore’s crew officiating; they have only dropped 20 flags for holding all year.
Roger Goodell is aware of the inconsistencies. “There should not be as much of a range,” he said to reporters in Minnesota on Sunday.
So it seems likely that the Redskins were more just unlucky for drawing Boger’s crew for the game than the were victims of any politically correct bias. It will be interesting to see if Goodell takes any action to take the luck of the officiating crew draw out of the game by taking concrete steps to improve consistency among the men wearing stripes and throwing flags.