How are NFL officials graded after missed bat penalty?
SEATTLE - James Ihedigbo was one of the most vocal Lions when it came to criticizing Monday night's botched batting call, saying the NFL needs to hold its officials more accountable for missed calls on the field.
"I mean, they got to be held accountable just as players are in terms of equipment violations, whatever it might be," Ihedigbo said. "There's a standard that players are held to on the field, there's a standard that coaches are held to on the field, there's a standard that teams are held to on the field and there has to be a standard that officials are held to as well. You can't just apologize."
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network shortly after Monday's 13-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks that linebacker K.J. Wright should have been penalized for intentionally batting a Calvin Johnson fumble out of the end zone.
Had a flag been thrown, the Lions would have retained possession inside the 1-yard line with less than two minutes to play and a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown.
The league did not respond to further questions about the call today.
But while it's unlikely the NFL will publicly discipline back judge Greg Wilson for missing the call – Wilson, in his eighth NFL season, deemed that Wright's bat was not an overt act and thus not a penalty – the play will be considered as part of a larger process the league uses to evaluate its officials.
Veteran NFL officials Fred Bryant and Doug Rosenbaum explained the league's grading process during a visit to Lions training camp in August.
Officials are evaluated on every play of every game, generally about 165 to 180 a week, and ranked into three tiers based on the percentage of calls (both made and not made) they get right.
They submit game reports to the the league office after every game, and within days the league gives each official his own game report. If there is a disagreement about a call, officials have a chance to dispute the league's findings before a final grade is determined by mid-week.
"Last year they said the average grade to be in Tier 1 was 98.4 percent," Bryant said, "Tier 2 it was 97. And then if you're below 97 you're in Tier 3."
The NFL uses its rankings to determine playoff assignments and, ultimately, which officials it employs.
This year, the league has 122 officials, including swing officials who work with different crews throughout the year.
"It's a very high standard," Rosenbaum said. "And they let you know midseason on how you're performance is and how you're doing and stuff, and of the guys that are maybe in Tier 3, we have trainers and the trainers can help with guys."
None of that, of course, makes Monday's missed penalty any easier for the Lions to swallow, even if Ihedigbo admits there's no perfect way to correct blown calls on the field.
"Big calls like this," Ihedigbo said, "they got to find a way to fix them."
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
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