The NFL has used a grading system for years to determine which officials would be called upon to work the playoffs. However, Dean Blandino, the league’s new director of officiating, is tweaking the formula of how officials are graded.
According to Jarrett Bell of the USA Today, the grading of officials will now have them slotted into one of three tiers based on their performance throughout the season. Officials in the top-tier are eligible to work postseason games.
It’s a shift from the numeric grading system of the past used by the league. Officials used to know exactly where they ranked among their positions on a 1-17 scale. Now they will only know which tier they currently stand in. The thought behind the shift is to have officials focus more on making the correct decisions than worrying about how the decisions affect their grade.
“We’ve tried to get the word ‘grading’ out of our vocabulary,” Blandino said. “We felt that officials historically – not just in the NFL, but in any evaluation or grading system – sometimes tend to get so caught up in the grades, they lose sight of what we want them to say: ‘This is an incorrect call, and here’s what you can do better,’ rather than, ‘I got a downgrade. Now I’m just worried about fighting that downgrade.’”
How it will tangibly affect the postseason assignments (if at all) remains to be seen, but any move to improve the quality of officiating in the postseason seems to be a good step.