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Referee Carl Cheffers and his officiating crew are off this week, so they will not be working a game in the final weekend of the NFL season.

The Cheffers crew has been more consistent and more dominant than any NFL team this season. They are an officiating juggernaut, relentlessly doling out punishment to the teams. This crew has assessed a league-high 229 penalties – 18 more than the next highest-penalty crew and (Scott Novak) and 89 more than the lowest-penalty crew (Bill Vinovich).

This is the only crew that has assessed 2,000 yards in penalties this season. Think of that as marching off 20 football fields in penalty yardage. Cheffers has walked off 193 more yards than the next highest crew (Shaun Hochuli) and 885 more yards than the lowest crew (Vinovich). The Cheffers crew has been the hardest of the 17 NFL officiating crews this season on both the road teams – 109 penalties for 961 yards – and the home teams – 120 for 1,087 yards. A rare double among the 17 crews.

Cheffers has been a crew chief since 2008 when the NFL promoted him to referee. In nine of his 14 seasons, he has finished in the Top 5 in penalties. He’s led the league three times, finished second twice and third twice. He has assessed 200 or more penalties in nine of his seasons.

His bosses obviously like how Cheffers calls games. He has been rewarded with playoff assignments in eight of his 14 seasons, including two Super Bowls.

Now understand who his bosses are – the league office. Each official and each crew is graded each week in New York on every call made and every call missed. The highest-graded officials are rewarded with playoff assignments and “all-star” crews are assembled for those post-season games. So Cheffers may be the referee for his playoff game but his umpire that day could come from the Hochuli crew, the line judge from the Vinovich crew and the side judge from the Scott Novak crew.

Logically, the nature of the NFL’s grading system for officials encourages penalty flags. Don’t miss calls. Missed calls hurt your grades, so throw flags. That makes NFL officials beholden each week to the film graders in New York.

I’ve always been of the belief that the fewer the flags, the better the game. You probably can throw a flag on every play in an NFL game. That doesn’t mean you have to. The best officials are the invisible ones. Let the players be the show. Let the players determine the outcome of games each week, not the officials. Make the officials beholden to the game on the field, not the film graders in New York.

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So here is my solution to the problem.

Instead of the league office passing out rewards in the form of playoff assignments, let the NFL head coaches do it. At the end of each season, ask each of the 32 NFL head coaches to rank the crews 1 through 17. The best crew in Bill Belichick’s eyes gets a 1, the worst crew in his eyes a 17.

Total up the ballots. The crew with the lowest combined score from the 32 head coaches – thus, the most favorable grading from the coaches -- gets to work the Super Bowl. The crews with the second and third lowest scores get the conference championship games. The next four crews get the conference semifinals and the next six the wild-card games.

Cheffers has slapped five teams with 100 yards in penalties in games this season, tops among the 17 crews. Scott Novak has flagged seven teams with at least 10 penalties in games this season, tops in the league. Referees Alex Kemp, Shaun Smith and Vinovich have not issued 100 penalty yards to any team in games this season and Vinovich has the only crew that has yet to flag a team for 10 penalties.

You wonder how differently the coaches would view the Cheffers, Novak, Kemp, Smith and Vinovich crews from how the film graders view them in New York.

The Dallas Cowboys have been assessed 10 penalties in a game four times this season, including both games worked by the Novak crew. I wonder how McCarthy views Novak? The Pittsburgh Steelers have been assessed 10 penalties in a game twice this season, both times by the Clete Blakeman crew. I wonder how Mike Tomlin views Blakeman?

The Cleveland Browns have seen the Brad Allen crew eight times since 2015. They are 0-8 in those games, including 0-2 in 2021. I wonder how Kevin Stefanski views Allen? In his four seasons as an NFL referee, Kemp has worked five Washington games. Washington is 0-5 in those games. I wonder how Ron Rivera views Kemp? In each of the three games the Buffalo Bills have seen Cheffers over the last two seasons, they have been slapped with 10-plus penalties, twice for more than 100 yards. I wonder how Sean McDermott views Cheffers?

If the officiating crews understand they will be held accountable for their performance each week by the coaches in the stadiums rather than the film graders in New York, I’m guessing there would be fewer flags. And better games.