This past Monday night during the Seahawks - Packers game, a controversial call essentially determined the winner of the game. This call was the powder keg that blew open the dam of angry recriminations and complaints directed at the replacement referees and the NFL. This was somewhat amusing to me as the people complaining seem to forget about all of the mistakes the regular referees appeared to make in all of the previous years. In 2008 one of the best referees in the NFL, Ed Hochuli made a rather horrendous call. I have to give him respect for owning up to it and apologizing. NFL fans have always complained about the officiating, warranted or not.
Seeing as how I have been collecting NFL statistics for a number of years, I decided to see what the data could tell me about the replacement referees performance. First I wanted to see if there was a disparity in the number of penalties called by the referees during the first three weeks of this year compared to the first three weeks of other years.
|Year||Mean penalties per game|
The average number of penalties appears to be consistent with the previous decade.
One concern that I read about was that the replacement referees were local and would favor the home team. Indeed one referee was removed from his assignment after some of his Facebook posts described him as a Saints fan. Just one more reason to watch what you release on social media.
So, have the home teams done better this year than others?
Looking at the number of home team wins in the first three weeks of each season shows that 31 wins in 2012, while a little higher than average and exactly equal to last year is nowhere even close to a statistical anomaly. This leads me to think about what Vegas thinks about the whole situation. The collective intelligence of the NFL fan population realized by the Vegas Spread has been the focus of much of my research.
ESPN and other sites are reporting that over $100 million dollars was lost as a result of the controversial call on Monday night. How far off from reality has the Vegas line been this year compared to the past 20 years?
This little experiment did not really prove anything other than the first three weeks of this season have not been statistically different than any other season in the past decade. Things being what they are, people will still find something to complain about and the search for someone to blame will always be successful.
The news is reporting that starting tonight the regular referees will be back and all will be well with the world. The question I leave you with is after the next controversial call, who will they blame?
-- Greg Szalkowski