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Inside Slant: Two new referees for NFL

4/25/2014

The retirement of two longtime NFL referees, as confirmed this week, represents about an 11 percent shakeup at the top of the league's 17 crews. I wouldn't, however, view the departures of Scott Green and Ron Winter as punitive after a wobbly season of league-wide officiating from a public perspective.

What the NFL does get is an opportunity to inject a couple of new faces into a group whose profile has increased significantly in recent years. Craig Wrolstad and Ronald Torbert will make the jump from their previous roles as a field judge and side judge, respectively, to replace Green and Winter. Both have experience as college referees, according to NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino.

Neither the media nor the public has access to the NFL's internal evaluations of referees and their crews, but the chart is a way of at least measuring how active they are relative to each other. It lists how many penalties, accepted and declined, each referee's crew called in their 15 games together last season.

You'll see that Green's crew called the second-most (241) and Winter's the eighth-fewest (201). Penalty totals aren't a measure of quality but, over time, they can help provide a preview of the likely flow for an upcoming game.

As the offseason began, I considered it a high priority for the NFL to analyze the state of its officiating. We've seen some action already, most notably in the decision to add the league office's assistance to instant replay. The league also made a first attempt to re-write and simplify a small portion of its rule book during the NFL meetings. Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.