Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hold on there!

Hold on.

There is a cry throughout the NFL, or at least here in Indy, that referees are not calling offensive holding like they used to.

Philip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Newspaper Monopoly has actually done some research on the topic. [Phil, could you please teach Bob Kravitz about trying this research-thing out?] Based on the number of holds called through the first 71 games, the projected number of holds for the entire season will be the lowest in the last 20 years. This is after an all-time high of 880 penalties called in 2005.

Below is a year by year comparison of the number of offensive holding penalties and the type of play they were called on.

Year-Holds-On run-On pass-On kick
2007 - 602 - 227 - 194 - 181
2006 - 579 - 216 - 181 - 182
2005 - 880 - 356 - 260 - 264
2004 - 774 - 302 - 235 - 237
2003 - 805 - 314 - 224 - 267
2002 - 796 - 279 - 216 - 301
2001 - 628 - 246 - 172 - 210
2000 - 779 - 335 - 178 - 266
1999 - 801 - 311 - 215 - 275
1998 - 834 - 310 - 226 - 298

OK, and here are the current numbers through 71 games and the season projections:

So far - 71 games - 157 holds - 61 on runs - 57 on passes - 39 on kicks
Projections - 256 games - 543 holds - 211 on runs - 197 on passes - 135 on kicks

While the 543 calls would be a 20-year low, look at the numbers for calls on runs and on passes as compared to 2006 and 2007. Notice that the numbers are relatively close and that the numbers for on pass calls would be higher. The drop is due mainly to the lack of calls on kicks.

What does the article focus on? Dwight Freeney and how there is a lack of call on pass plays! No, the number of calls on pass plays would be the highest in three years. If the article had focused on the last three years of no calls, then this would be OK. However, Phil only seems to point to this year.

It is also speculated that the decrease in calls was to speed up the game. If there are 256 games per season and there were 880 calls in 2005 and 543 calls projected for 2008, that works out to be only 3.43 and 2.12 calls per game, respectively. A decrease of 1.31 calls per game does not really speed the game up that much.

Phil is correct is that Freeney does look like he gets held on many plays and it is even obvious to those sitting in the upper deck. I do not like the fact that we have moved away from the rules stating what a hold is to letting the referee have a subjective opinion of whether the hold impacted the play or not. Yes, we have those types of judgments on pass interference if the ball was uncatchable, but we can see the result of whether the pass was catchable or not. If a player is held, we don't know if he could have gotten to the QB or not.

I applaud Phil for doing some research for the article and your hypothesis that Freeney and the Indy D-line are being held and not getting calls seems to be correct. However, I believe that your data does not quite back up your theory since there looks to be more offensive holding calls than the previous two years.

As for O-linemen, remember, "hold on loosely, but don't let go."

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