Is the Officiating Really as Good as We Think It Is?

The officiating in the NFL must be worse than I thought it was. To be honest, until yesterday I thought the officials had done a pretty good job during the 2006 season.
Sunday morning I read in the Buffalo News that the highest reversal rate on challenges was by Gerry Austin‘s crew, which was reversed on 10 of 16 challenged calls, the highest reversal rate in the league this season.
Imagine my surprise then, when Austin’s crew officiated the Bears-Seahawks game Sunday afternoon. According to the NFL’s website, crews are graded every week and only the best ones get to work in the postseason:

“Instead of judging how well each official does his job, the league now will grade each crew. The top-rated crews at the end of the year will be assigned to postseason games rather than the previous method of having “all-star” crews of the highest-rated officials during the regular season work the playoffs, conference championship games and Super Bowl.”

Am I as a fan supposed to believe the crew with the highest reversal rate is one of the best in the league? If the crew with the highest reversal rate in the league still graded out well enough to make the playoffs, how bad are the other crews?
Fortunately, the Bears-Seahawks game was not decided on a bad call by the zebras.
Titans fans, I know you have to be wondering if Austin’s crew worked any Titans’ games this year. Yes, they did, in Tennessee’s 28-22 win over Houston in Week 8.
Tennessee was assessed 64 yards on eight penalties, while the Texans were flagged ten times for 74 yards. As I recall, there weren’t any questionable calls (or no-calls) that had an outcome on the game. (There was a questionable call on KVB for unnecessary roughness on a sack of Carr, which led to a Texans’ field goal.)
Neither coach made a challenge during the game.
Austin’s crew for that game consisted of umpire Ruben Fowler, head linesman Jerry Bergman, line judge Carl Johnson, side judge Al Riveron, back judge Bob Lawing, field judge Scott Edwards, replay official James Wilson, and video operator Eugene Cunningham.
The crew was the same yesterday, except for umpire Undrey Wash, replay official Al Hynes, and video operator Mark Burns.
I’ll be watching with interest to see if Austin and company work another game this postseason.

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