Official Review: The New Position

GREEN BAY WI - OCTOBER 17: Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers argues with Ed Hochuli #85 as he follows him and other officials on the field after a controversial call in the 4th quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field on October 17 2010 in Green Bay Wisconsin. The Dolphins defeated the Packers 23-20 in overtime. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

As any Colts fan knows, our off0season is as about as eventful as watching paint dry.  Our team is notorious for sticking with the status quo and not making waves.  To fill some of that time, I have decided to combine some of my passions.

During the spring and summer, I work as an umpire for the IHSAA and the Fort Wayne Umpires.  This gives me a strange perspective when I watch Colts' games.  I like to think I can always be objective, but I find my love of the team jading my perspective on a regular basis.  I have also been interested in statistical analysis as well (as I'm sure you have noticed).  

So what is the point of all this?  This is the first post in a series where I am going to dig into the statistics of the officials in the NFL.  We all feel like there are crews that do not throw a holding flag for anything.  Is that really true?  How often do the Colts cause too many men on the field penalties?  Are there more or less holding penalties called while the Colts are on defense?  I have wondered about these things for years and now I have the platform to discuss them.

Going into this season, there was a much ballyhooed change in the positioning of the umpire.  the NFL said it was for safety of the umpires.  Many of us talked about it as the death of the true hurry up offense.  Peyton even pushed at the rule during pre-season games.  Did this have an effect on the season?  How many illegal snap penalties were called?  Was there a slow down in the Colts Stampede offense?  Let's see what the numbers tell us.

To the hurry up offense question.  Finding "hard data" for this question is nearly impossible.  How can you quantify the Colts hurry up?  As I think back through the season, I can only think of one specific incidence where Peyton wanted to hurry to the line for a quick snap and the officials held him up.  It was a goal line situation where Peyton wanted to hustle for a QB sneak.  He didn't make it on the sneak, because the defense was ready for it.  

I would expect to see a far number less plays run this year than last if the positioning had any real effect on hurry-up offenses.  This season teams ran 44,438 plays.  Last season there were 43,228.  The Colts had 1,407 offensive snaps in 2010 and 1,437 in 2009 (2 more games in there as well).  I think we can safely say there was little to no effect on hurry-up offenses.  

The only penalty that was added to the rule book with this change was the "illegal snap" that was called when we played the Packers in pre-season.  I went through the play-by-play for the season and found NO illegal snaps listed.  I think we can safely say that the quarterbacks in the league made sure the last official was set before they called for the snap.  

So did the move make any difference during this season?  We'll look at holding penalties later to confirm this, but I do not see a difference in the numbers that shows an impact on the gameplay in the NFL.  For as much consternation as the rule change caused during the off-season, it hardly bares mentioning in a re-cap of the season.  

A quick note about this series of articles; I do not plan to make this a laundry list of missed calls for or against the Colts.  I am going for pure analysis here.  Compile the numbers and report the results.  Is there anything you always wanted to know?  What type of penalties are you interested in?  Let me know if there is anything you would like me to look into.

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