What I Learned About Football This Week That I Didn't Know Last Week
Ed Hochuli's officiating crew was the highest-rated crew in the league this year, according to Phil Simms of CBS Sports.
Nearly fell off my chair Sunday in the first quarter of Baltimore-Miami when I heard Simms say Hochuli, who had the biggest gaffe of the year in the Denver-San Diego game in Week 2, and his crew earned the highest grade among the 17 officiating teams in 2008. I asked the league for confirmation, but a spokesman said there would be no discussion of specific grades of officials. But I'm sure Simms is right.
I looked Sunday into how the postseason officiating assignments are made. But first a word about the grading of officials. Each official works 15 games during the season, covering approximately 2,250 plays per zebra. They're graded on accuracy of calls made, graded down on calls missed, judged as crews on the flow and pace of a game, and graded on proper positioning and general professionalism. At the end of the season, every official gets an individual grade. The crews are ranked collectively by aggregate grades, while the individual officials -- 17 per position -- are ranked 1 through 17.
Re the postseason assignments: The league separates the first two weekends of the playoffs and the last two weekends. On the first two weekends, the wild-card and divisional rounds, the league takes the eight highest-rated crews among the 17 crews overall and has each one do one game. (Four wild-card games, four divisional games.) After the divisional games next weekend, no regular-season crews do games as a group the rest of the year.
For the last three games -- the AFC and NFC Championship and the Super Bowl -- all-star crews take over. Each year, the league ranks every official by position (referee, head linesman, back judge, etc.). The three top-rated officials at each position will get one of the final three games. No official will do more than two postseason games, and no official will do more than one game from among the conference championships and Super Bowl.
There are a couple of exceptions. No rookie official, for example, is eligible to work the championship games or Super Bowl. No official can work the Super Bowl two years in a row.
If you see Hochuli in any of the last three games of the year, you'll know he was one of the three highest-rated referees of the 2008 season. Hard for me to believe he could be, based on the enormity of the mistake in Week 2, but we'll know later this month.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Mind if I vent?
There was a tad too much of eating-the-young in the wake Jets' season ender last week. Even in New York, it seemed over-the-top. The New York Post had these screaming headlines:
Monday, back page: "Dump 'Em ... Losers Mangini, Favre Must Go.''
Tuesday, front page, with a photo of the freshly fired Mangini with his back to the camera: "Don't Let It Hit You On the Way Out! Good Riddance!''
I realize you get this big money in the big game in the big city, but did Mangini, after two winning seasons in three years as coach, deserve to be treated like some combination of Marv Throneberry and Son of Sam?
Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Note of the Week
Reason to Leave New Jersey Dept.: Friday, 4:10 p.m. Leave for the 16-minute drive to Garden State Plaza in Paramus, for the 4:40 showing of Frost/Nixon at big movie megaplex. Friday, 4:27 p.m.: Arrive at parking structure. Look for spot. Friday, 4:34 p.m.: No spots inside or outside a parking facility bigger than Rhode Island. Lines of two and three cars following pokey shoppers to their cars. Drivers swear at drivers. Friday, 4:38 p.m.: Much cursing of car volume in the Garden State. Finally find a shopper with no line behind her. Follow her to the spot. There's a latecomer zooming in from the opposite direction. I wait. Woman backs out. I park. Latecomer drives away, yelling, "Thanks, ---munch.'' Friday, 4:48 p.m. Frazzled. Thank God for previews. We miss nothing.