NFL Referee Fumbles Not As Bad As You Think

NFL officiating crews are facing unprecedented criticism this season after making several controversial calls during matchups between high-profile teams. But league-provided statistics suggest referees aren’t any less accurate this season than they’ve been in the recent past.

About 26,400 plays have occurred during NFL games through the season’s first 11 weeks, for an average of about 160 plays per contest. NFL referees have an accuracy rating of more than 95% during that span, for an average of 4.3 mistakes per game, an NFL spokesman told

That’s consistent with referees’ rate of error over the past five seasons, the spokesman added. In other words, the league’s officiating isn’t getting worse – from a statistical perspective, at least.

But that hasn’t stopped several prominent NFL players, coaches and analysts from openly taking umbrage with the performance of the league’s officiating crews this season. Ongoing criticism stoked a debate about whether the NFL should hire referees full-time, as opposed to its current part-time employment system. Others have questioned whether high-profile officiating mistakes and inefficiency are having a negative effect on fan and television viewership experience – the driving force behind the NFL’s multibillion-dollar revenue model.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and ESPN football analyst Mark Schlereth are just a few of the individuals who have openly criticized officiating crews in recent weeks. Brady expressed frustration with calls made during the Patriots’ overtime loss to Denver Broncos last Sunday. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was twice flagged for offensive pass interference during the contest, took to Twitter (NASDAQ:TWTR) after the game to “agree” with the assertion that officials were unfairly targeting him.

While league statistics show incorrect calls aren’t happening any more frequently this season than in previous years, NFL executives are taking steps to ensure a high standard for referee performance. The league reassigned official Pete Morelli and his crew to an afternoon game next Sunday after their much-criticized handling of a Week 12 matchup between the Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers, reported.