A Scorecard of NFL Referees
Carl Cheffers and Shawn Hochuli love those yellow flags
There is one certainty this NFL season – and it doesn’t involve any of the league’s 32 teams.
It involves the NFL’s “33rd team.” That third team on the field each week – the officiating crew. Specifically, the Carl Cheffers crew.
Cheffers & Co. are going to throw yellow flags. Lots of them. And the Shawn Hochuli crew won’t be far behind.
Sixteen of the 17 NFL referees return from last season. Tony Corrente has retired and will be replaced by Tra Blake. The referee is the crew chief. He sets the tone. Even though the makeup of the crews changes by the year, the consistency of the calls by the crews of Cheffers and Hochuli remains an NFL constant.
Cheffers has been an NFL referee for 14 years and has finished in the Top 3 in penalties in seven of those seasons. No other referee is even close. Jerome Boger, the NFL’s most-senior referee, has served in that capacity for 16 seasons and has finished in the Top 3 only (and a runnerup) four times.
The Cheffers crew has thrown the most yellow flags in a season three times, including 2021 when it assessed 229 penalties and was the only crew to walk off 2,000 yards in infractions (2,048). The Cheffers crew also led the NFL in penalties in 2014 and 2015.
Hochuli is a second-generation NFL referee, following in the footsteps of his father Ed. He’s also following in his father’s footsteps on the field. Ed’s crew assessed the most penalties in the NFL in 2010. Shawn’s crew assessed the most penalties in his rookie season in 2018. Shawn’s crew has finished in the Top 3 in penalties in two of his four seasons.
In his four seasons, Shawn’s crew has assessed an average of 13.8 penalties for 120.2 yards per game. Those are the highest averages of the 16 returning crews. Cheffers ranks third in penalties (13.5) and second in yardage (115.7). Boger is in the middle with 13.6 penalties per game for 112.6 yards.
Countering the Cheffers and Hochuli crews is that of Bill Vinovich. He has been an NFL referee for 13 seasons and his crew has finished in the Bottom 3 in penalties in seven of them. Vinovich has assessed the fewest penalties in three of those seasons, including 2021. No other crew has finished at the bottom in penalties more than once.
The disparity between top (Cheffers) and bottom (Vinovich) crews last season was stark. The Vinovich crew assessed 81 fewer penalties for 807 fewer yards than the Cheffers crew. In 193 career games, Vinovich has assessed an average of 11.3 penalties per game for 94.3 yards. The only other crew walking off fewer than 100 yards in penalties per game is that of Scott Novak. In his three seasons as a referee, Novak’s crews have assessed an average of 11.8 penalties for 95.7 yards.
In the opening week of the 2022 season, Cheffers has been assigned to work the league’s Thursday night showcase game between the Bills and the defending Super Bowl champion Rams. On Sunday, Hochuli has been assigned to work the Steelers-Bengals game and Vinovich will work the Packers-Vikings game.
Here’s the career scorecard of the NFL’s current cast of referees:
|Referee||Debut||Seasons||Games||Average Penalties||Average yards|
You the man Rick, maybe the league will notice.
The entertainment value of penalty-fests is so low, one would think the league would emphasize that fewer is better. Instead the NFL chooses something each year to make a “point of emphasis.” Understand illegal contact is this year’s focus. I reckon the primary flag throwers will enjoy the opportunity.