The NFL says it's just a coincidence. But after examining the
game-by-game penalty logs of the league's 17 officiating crews,
it's hard to believe that mere happenstance explains why some
crews are consistently flagging a significantly higher number of
penalties than other crews. Cases in point:
--The crew led by referee Walt Anderson has worked 11 of 13 weeks,
and only twice has it not ranked in the top five for most
--Over a four-game stretch beginning in Week 3, the crew headed by
Johnny Grier stepped off 32, 22, 25 and 21 penalties. Each week
Grier's crew called the most infractions.
--Anderson's crew has officiated eight games in which it has
walked off 15 or more penalties, while Tom White's crew has had
seven such games. On the other hand the crews led by Gerald
Austin and Bernie Kukar have each had one game with 15 or more
December 8, 2003
--There have been five games in which 25 or more penalties were
accepted, and Anderson and Grier were involved in two each. In
the Nov. 23 Saints-Eagles game, Anderson's crew raised its
average for penalties flagged to a league-high 18.6 per game
(compared with Austin's league-low 11.2) with a performance for
the ages: 34 flags on 151 plays, with 26 accepted penalties for
"It would concern me if their percentage of accuracy was low,"
Mike Pereira, the NFL's director of officiating, says of
Anderson's crew. "But it isn't. The question is, If a foul is
there, do you want it called or not? That crew is calling fouls
that are there."
Yet how can a league that prides itself on parity among teams
allow such disparity among its officiating crews?