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.