Sources: NFL competition committee ordered more offensive holding calls for 2021

Officers instructed to use pre-2019 thresholds, frequency

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As Week 1 demonstrated, the NFL intends this season to have its on-field officers throw extra flags for offensive holding than in 2020.


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Officers have been particularly instructed this season to name offensive holding kind of on pre-2019 thresholds, league sources instructed Postmedia this week.

Meaning not almost as typically as in 2019, when offensive-holding calls skyrocketed, particularly early on, after officers too carefully interpreted a guidelines tweak that, for security’s sake, forbid all blindside blocks on all performs.

However, relatively, extra alongside the traces of how offensive holding had been known as pre-2019. Which means far more than final yr’s low-count anomaly.

The choice was made early this previous low season by the league’s designated keeper-of-the-rules, the highly effective competitors committee. In its annual report back to house owners and golf equipment (issued in March), the committee instructed the league’s officiating division to crack down on offensive holding in 2021.


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House owners authorized the report, that means they authorized the crackdown, after the committee walked them via the reasoning, because it does yearly with all officiating or guidelines modifications.

This got here after the competitors committee recognized and confirmed to everybody final February and March — from the coaches sub-committee, to players-union reps, to the NFL operations division, to officiating division leaders — movies displaying dozens of offensive-holding infractions that went uncalled final season.

Known as offensive-holding penalties particularly numbered 547 in 2020 — down 39% from the 902 known as in 2019, down 38% from the 881 in 2018, and down 33% from the 820 in 2017; the NFL supplied these stats upon request.


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Isolating Week 1 alone in current seasons reveals totals much more schizophrenic, per the NFL:

  • 2021: 53
  • 2020: 18
  • 2019: 82
  • 2018: 64
  • 2017: 58

Chronologically, that’s a ten% Week 1 rise in 2018, a 28% rise in 2019, a 78% drop in 2020, and a 194% rise this yr. To begin current seasons, then, the brink bar for offensive holding goes up and down like a CN Tower elevator.

It should be driving some gamers and coaches loopy.

That mentioned, everybody within the league was knowledgeable about this yr’s change months in the past, sources say.

You will have observed the change was not listed amongst this yr’s officiating “factors of emphasis,” an annual class of introduced crackdowns on current guidelines. Slightly, the change was listed as an express “officiating place” by the competitors committee in its annual report back to house owners.


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That is vital as a result of labeling it an “officiating place” means it was not a suggestion to the officiating division, however relatively an express directive. A terse official directive, if you’ll.

And it’s greater than just a little significant.

Assume there was a correlation between final yr’s whistle-swallowing on offensive holding and the offensive yards and factors explosions we noticed, particularly to begin the season? In fact there was. No often known as penalty kills a drive — or drives followers extra nuts — than an inopportune offensive-holding flag.

Via Week 5 final yr a report variety of touchdowns (453) and factors (3,958) had been scored, with offensive holding penalties down 56%. Coincidence? Hardly.

Historically — that’s, earlier than the final two seasons — the typical NFL offensive-holding calls per recreation numbered simply over three. For instance, 3.4 in 2018, 3.2 in 2017, and three.3 in 2016.


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Final season’s common, beneath an unannounced mandate of calling offensive holding solely when clear and apparent, was 2.1.

Final week’s common, after low season interjection by the competitors committee? Proper in keeping with pre-2019: 3.3.

Dean Blandino, previously the NFL’s head of officiating and now an an-air officiating analyst on Fox Sports activities’ NFL and faculty video games, in a telephone interview Thursday mentioned he could be blissful to see a return to conventional offensive-holding name frequency.

“Final yr was traditionally low for the whole season,” Blandino mentioned. “I imply, it was most likely the bottom for the reason that early ’70s. And in 2019 there was that complete emphasis over the primary couple of weeks that nearly felt like an over-correction. Numbers had been extraordinarily excessive.


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“There was such a large variance. That creates points if you’re teaching the offensive line and making an attempt to grasp the usual. Hopefully, the numbers keep constant for the remainder of the yr. If it does keep roughly the place it was in Week 1, that’s kind of the place it’s been traditionally, and that’d be a superb factor.”

In an interview after Week 5 final season, Blandino mentioned it wouldn’t take lengthy for savvy coaches and offensive lineman to abuse the holding-call leniency. On Thursday Blandino added these factors.

“I believe we’re seeing a recognition that final yr offensive-holding calls had been on the low finish. That creates points. In case you permit holding to happen at these sorts of ranges, then the defensive linemen get annoyed … That’s why the sport turns into extra bodily, and doubtlessly much more violent.

“The foundations are there in order that gamers can resolve the sport with their ability, their approach, and never acquire any unfair benefit. This (yr’s change) is extra alongside the traces of what’s within the rulebook, and that’s a optimistic factor.”

An ordered factor, too.




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