No changes coming to NFL officials’ playoff assignments


There’s been some talk after the officials botched a call in Dallas on Sunday that the NFL should change the way it assigns officials to playoff games. But no changes are coming any time soon.

Instead of keeping regular-season officiating crews together for the playoffs, the league divides officials up and creates new crews for the postseason. The league chooses the 10 highest-ranking officials at each of the positions (referee, line judge, side judge, etc.) and assigns them to work the 11 playoff games, with the officials who work the Super Bowl being the only ones who work twice in the postseason. The playoff crews are sometimes referred to as “all-star” crews, although the term “all-star” is something of a misnomer, as some of the officials chosen for the playoffs actually graded out in the bottom half of all the officials in the league at their position.

So did these officials working together for the first time on Sunday in Dallas cause them to miscommunicate and botch the call against the Lions? NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said on PFT Live that he doesn’t think that’s the case.

“I don’t think that was ultimately the factor that led to this situation happening,” Blandino said of the bad call against the Lions. “I think when you look at this crew makeup, you do have four officials that have worked together. The head linesman and the line judge were on the same crew, and the back judge and the umpire were on the crew all season.”

Blandino noted that the current postseason assignment system is part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the officials, which runs through the 2015 season. So it couldn’t be changed until after next year’s playoffs, at the earliest.

But Blandino isn’t so sure it should be changed. He says officials can work well together even if they haven’t worked together previously.

“Our mechanics have been standardized,” Blandino said. “So it’s not like a team where they have a different game plan and different terminology. It’s pretty standard.”

It’s a system that has taken some criticism, but it’s a system the NFL doesn’t seem inclined to change.

71 responses to “No changes coming to NFL officials’ playoff assignments

  1. Yeah, of course not. Pete Morelli did his job for the league by bringing in increased ratings next Sunday. What a joke. Any league would have fired this buffoon for his mockery of officiating yesterday.

  2. In order to change, they’d have to admit something was wrong. And you know that doesn’t happen in the NFL.

  3. There are good calls and bad calls. Dropped passes and fumbles. The great QBs usually can overcome stuff like that. Andrew Luck had 5 or 6 passes dropped and a couple fumbles by the running back.

  4. NFL needs to have full time refs that are accountable for every call. If they keep changing the outcome of the games then why watch or even play the game. The NFL is RIGGED big time. How do we know they don’t have family or friends betting on the games. But that’s none of my business. It’s theirs.

  5. Wow, Blandino has clearly adopted the Goodell culture. That culture being one of arrogance, deceit, and lying.

  6. Of course not. You wouldn’t expect the NFL to fix something if it were shown to be broken.

    That’s the result of hubris at the top.

  7. This means Packers will lose big to the Cowboys. Not bc Jerry pays the officials but bc Rodgers is too soft and he’ll eventually try pretend injury to his ACL.

  8. If no change is going to come to the crews at least make the change that if a flag is picked up an explanation is provided as to why.

  9. This will be equivalent to the BlackSox scandal; the only thing is it will be the refs instead of the players who have disgraced the league. And the NFL should be ashamed for condoning it.

  10. Refs get a lot of heat but overall I think they do a very good job, considering how difficult it really is. You’ve got twenty-two men running all over the place and seven guys expected to observe every detail. Imagine how much they have to absorb and interpret. They’re expected to make an immediate decision and sometimes it’s not so clear-cut. Tough job. There are some corrupt officials out there, though. No doubt about it.

  11. NFL is totally broken,a good game that is being ruined by { Jones,Kraft,Goodell and of course the officials}

  12. Fire them all & bring back the “replacements”. Boot Goodell & hire Vince McMahon as commissioner … it’s a natural fit.

  13. Nah, the whole system is corrupt. Don’t expect these writers (or any other sports writers for that matter) to call out the NFL though, after all, their livelihood depends on the NFL being perceived as a fair competition. No one wants to write about the NFL if it is finally admitted that they are not much different than 1980s WWF wrestling. Once this is acknowledged and accepted as fact, the NFL will implode in upon itself.

  14. NFL refs must have a great union bc they are terrible and there are never any consequences. FIRE THEM when they screw up and let a more able bodied ref take their place.

  15. Amazing that people don’t want to admit what’s happening. They are aiming to make it a $25 billion industry- with that much money at stake, you think the business called the NFL wouldn’t do what it takes to maximize profits? That’s why pro football is classified as “entertainment”, not sport, bc legally they can influence the outcome of games without repercussions.

    “All-Star” team with bottom ranked officials, who have never worked with one another… cmon ppl use your heads. The media can’t outright come out and say it either bc they would lose their reputation with the league, and ultimately lose out on the hand that feeds them

  16. it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving team!!! keep suh and railiola and keep stomping and stepping on opposing teams players. lmao karma gets you and the tears flow!!!

  17. The system worked perfectly. The National Fixed League has the team it wants in get any help it needs.

    You can bet though if this went the other way. Jerrah would already have the rules committee together to get this fixed.

    We all know that would never happen though. Because if you cant see that vaunted dallas O-line blatantly hold hold on almost every down there is no way they are going to see anything else.

  18. Why wouldn’t you change it? For what reason wouldn’t you change it? NFL hidebound stubbornness and hubris is the only answer…

  19. If you have a standardized system and the ‘all stars’ can’t get it right, what does that say?

    I just want to point out you have bright stars and dim stars and these are all stars.

    I also find it curious that a CBA dictates an important component of how your organization functions.

  20. There’s another angle of that play that clearly shows Pettigrew grabbing the face mask prior to Hitchens contact and you can also clearly see in that same angle that the “contact” from Hitchens was actually him swatting at Pettigrew’s arm to get his hand off his face mask as Hitchens can’t even see cause his helmet is pulled over his eyes. This also happens to be prior to Pettigrew reaching up for the ball which was underthrown anyway. What’s odd to me is that Fox showed this particular replay twice then all of a sudden stopped showing it and only began showing the same replay we’ve all seen 100 times when referencing the play where all you see is Hitchens making the contact with no clear shot of Pettigrew grabbing the face mask. Since Fox stopped showing that clearer angle nobody else has shown it not even NFL network in fact I’ve heard no mention whatsoever from anybody on NFL network or any network for that matter about the grab of the face mask not even when they’re bashing Hitchens for not turning around to play the ball. Does the NFL not want anybody see it for fear it might shine some light on what actually happened thereby ruining their fueling hatred of the Cowboys prior to their much promoted Ice Bowl II? We all know by now that EVRYBODY wants even more to see Dallas get beat in Green Bay which of course means more viewers to see it for themselves. IMO the NFL has stumbled upon a way to promote the Dallas Green Bay game by fueling the already existing hatred for Dallas and doesn’t want ANYBODY to see a better view of this “robbery”. What’s even more odd to me is that I have tried to post a link to the video that shows the better angle 7 times and each time it has been removed very quickly and when I finally gave up posting the link and just posted where to find the video that too was removed quickly. I think alot of you are right the fix is in but despite popular belief it ain’t in benefit of Dallas as no matter what Dallas accomplishes this season even should it be the Super Bowl there will always be an asterisk next to it in the minds of many fans for how the NFL is handling this in making it an absolute one sided situation.

  21. Meanwhile, Jerry has invited Goodell to probe the refs on the party bus. NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino will be there to assess performance.

  22. Why change when you can gamble on games and also fantasy football, you will continue to have incompetent refs. In addition, you continue to see influential owners like Jerry pay off refs to get the ring.

  23. PLEASE tell us all that Morelli’s crew will not be allowed anywhere near an NFL field this weekend? Or next weekend? Or the Super Bowl?

  24. vancouversportsbro says: Jan 5, 2015 7:01 PM

    Yeah, of course not. Pete Morelli did his job for the league by bringing in increased ratings next Sunday. What a joke. Any league would have fired this buffoon for his mockery of officiating yesterday.

    Sounds like a made to order Seadderal excuse to me. You scared Bro?

  25. OK if the fix was in don’t you think it would be a little more subtle? You really think that the paid off refs are going to decide to do something they never do. Announce a penalty and then after the announcement pick up the flag with no explanation. That was a bad no-call but I see no evidence that it was anything but human error, no conspiracy. Detroit had plenty of opportunity to win that game after the call. Maybe they were in on the fix too?

    I am no Dallas fan, but I think they played better and deserved to win. Stafford failed again in a big game on the road against an opponent with a winning record.

  26. Talk by PFT, never heard of it from anyone else..
    but I did like the round robin kind of best refs go to the next round thing.
    They should keep regular season crews together.

    Cant believe all the complaining about one call.
    In the realm of bad officiating that game was not even in the top 1000.

  27. So could those bastards just tell us who they have already decided is going to win so we can cut down on the suspense? Or are the Cowboys the only ones who get the Refs on their side? Which World Wrestling Team is going to win the belt?

  28. A referee can make a mistake, but the wrong things is to change the decision, its not serious . The referee saw a pass interference and threw a flag, point. Did you see a baseball referee said”it’s a strike” and after change the call ?The cowboys stole the game.

  29. The stench of this hangs heavy in the air and will for years to come. Sure,the N.F.L. media machine has been relentless from the moment this fiasco started to explain away the obvious,obfuscate,and bring up anything and everything to convince the average fan that they didn’t really see what they just saw. This is the most blatant and obvious example of what many have seen slowly taking over the game. Certain teams benefit the entire season by getting the calls and not being flagged and certain teams are continually hosed. The zebras and NFL insiders are taking over the game. I could care less for either team but when everyone that feeds at the NFL trough just wants to ignore this and “move on” it is up to the average fan to not sit quietly and pretend they are buying the company line.

  30. What a hollow argument! NFL, you blew this one on the main stage in front of the nation. It was the only game on TV. Stop acting like you can rationalize this away.

    Detroit should have kept their foot on the gas and not let the officials factor in the game. Fact remains this error was a turning point, and it contributed to ending the Lions season too early.

    As a Lions fan, I just shake my head. When’s the last time you say a kick returner get tackled inside his own 5 yd line or a blatant call get incorrectly “corrected” or a punt go 10 TDs??? Happened in one game!

    Only the Lions… and maybe the Browns.

  31. Of course they should have regular crew but based on the fact that each role is interchangeable the NFL won’t do it and nothing grabs attention like conflict..

  32. It strikes me that a sad large fraction of the commenters in this thread have absolutely no idea of the amount of work , training, and dedication that an NFL official actually goes through and has.

  33. Imagine that, the Cowboys winning a playoff game when a ref decides to ignore a blatant case of pass interference during a critical moment in the game. I’ll bet that has never happened before.

    Is that Drew Pearson chuckling over there?

  34. Changing up crews for the playoffs if anything lessens the chances of referee misconduct. No time to conspire. Think about it. Moreover, to claim that a bad call (that did not add or subtract points) made with over 8 minutes left in the game changed the winner is ludicrous. Detroit scored 2 FG’s after the 1st qtr.
    Dallas scored 17 in the second half. Detroit did not have the balls to go for it on 4th and 1 after the “call”; Dallas pulled the trigger on 4th and 6 out of FG range and went on to score the winning TD. These facts are the reason Dallas won. The bad call lie won’t change the results. This ain’t politics.

  35. Clearly the NFL have been handing play off games to the Cowboys for years now.

    how can you clowns enjoy anything when you are so paranoid?

  36. I am not a fan of the Lions or Cowboys. I was enjoying a hard fought football game until the referees changed the probable outcome. I am tired of hearing …” one bad call doesn’t cost a team the game”. And after that one bad call, the NFL appears to me now as predetermined outcome entertainment! Which matchup does the NFL want in the 2015 Super Bowl? Cowboys vs which AFC team?

  37. As a former Official I can tell you working as part of a regular crew is critical, you get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, who is quick to throw a flag and who is slow. To throw new crews together for the most important games of the Season is absolutely ludicrous and needs to end right now.

  38. btw I’m an Eagles fan so no love for the Cowboys but if the game was fixed by the NFL wouldn’t it have been easier not to overturn Suh’s suspension?

  39. The Cowboys and their fans can only hope Jerry’s clout can get these same friendly refs assigned to their next game in Green Bay because its going to be very hard to impossible to win in Lambeau Field against a very good Packers team without the Cowboys 12th man on the field.

  40. I am willing to go with the no call p.i. and holding but as soon as dezzy stepped in front of the ref without a helmet the flag should have come out and been a penalty. but again you have to remember they were in dallas look closely at jerry Jones he is paying some of these guys under the table to play for him the ref that reversed the call got 300,000.00 for his part

  41. “In addition, you continue to see influential owners like Jerry pay off refs to get the ring.”
    Jerry likes to hang around politicians and pay PACs huge sums to see his men his political friends he will do anything to win and as we all know doing it illegally really isnt an issue until they get caught.

  42. thetooloftools says:
    Jan 5, 2015 9:00 PM
    How come NASCAR can make changes on the fly, but the NFL is handcuffed?
    That’s easy – the drivers aren’t unionized and NASCAR is a monarchy. There always has been, and always will be, some person named France at the top of the org chart, and what he says goes, without any dissent tolerated. They made the fatal error of putting restrictor plates on the cars in 1988, and even after racing with them killed Dale Earnhardt, they continue to use them. Taking them off would be admitting a mistake, and they’re never going to do that. Kind of like the NFL.

    As for the penalties, I think every call should be challengable, with 3 challenges per half.

  43. @ cboys4life2014 says:
    Jan 5, 2015 9:59 PM

    Well said. I didn’t think it was PI watching it full-speed & certainly not after seeing the facemask committed by the Lions.

    This is attention-seeking issue only.

    Lion’s do not know how to close out games early. Caldwell is a wuss of a coach.

  44. Blandino, consider this. Rate your “all stars” after week 15 and then switch them to the respective playoff crews. Assign them to games with no playoff implications to get used to each other, then maybe for the playoffs, there would better communication after working a couple of games together.

  45. I’m hoping the Panthers win the Super Bowl on a phantom roughing the kicker penalty.

    And, like most normal people, I don’t like the Panthers.

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