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Giants-Packers Referee Preview: Ed Hochuli By the Numbers

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We look at Ed Hochuli’s penalty tendencies and find that we could be in for a very long-winded and flag-filled game on Sunday.

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Ed Hochuli is a strong man who likes to show off on television. He is also an attorney who takes time to pontificate on the nature of just what a penalty is, what causes penalties, and whether we can really ever actually be penalized if he approach life with the right attitude. But more than anything, he is the crew chief for this week’s Green Bay Packers-New York Giants playoff game, a game I am currently scared to death of.

While we all deal with uncertainty of the future in our own way, I deal with it by logging into baseball-reference.com or pro-football-reference.com and fidgeting about with the play index. As it turns out, they keep stats on NFL officials, and while I wish they had more robust splits available, I’ll take what I can get. Hochuli is an improvement over the officials the Packers have had foisted on them the last two weeks (Jerome Boger and the league’s worst official, Jeff Triplette), and while this will not even be Ed’s normal crew as the NFL uses mixed crews for playoff games, Ed scares me.

Ed’s not anti-Packer or anti-any team as far as I can tell, he just brings his own bit of muscled chaos to every game he calls. Anyway, I crunched some Ed Hochuli numbers, because why not. Please consider these extremely unofficial as I had to parse out a lot of these splits by hand, and when doing so, mistakes happen. Anyway, here are some Ed facts.

1. Home teams are bad in Hochuli games this season.

In 2012, home teams won 75% of their Ed Hochuli games, which frankly seems like a lot. In 2013 they won 62.5% of their games. In 2014 home teams were a super-dominant 81.3% victorious, and that only tapered off marginally into 2015 where home teams won 70.6% of games.

This season for whatever reason, home teams are just 46.7% winners in front of the striped he-man. (Home Teams: Indy (L), Buf (L), Tampa (L), Baltimore (L), Green Bay (W), Miami (W), Cincinnati (W), New Orleans (W), Minnesota (L), New York Jets (L), Kansas City (L), Chicago (L), New England (W), Houston (W), Oakland (W). One weird quirk though, is he flagged home teams less than league average. Only 45.41% of his flags penalized the home team. On that note:

2. Ed is streaky

Home teams started by losing their first 4 Hochuli games, then won their next 4, then won their next 4, then losing their final 3. (Note: He officiated 15 games this season.) It was a streak of going hard, then recovering, then going hard, and then recovering befitting someone of his physique.

3. Ed loves to make high leverage calls

Especially early in the season! Through his first 8 games, exactly 50% of his crew’s called penalties occurred on either 3rd down, 4th down, or a special teams play like a PAT or a kickoff. Please keep in mind that there are far fewer 3rd and 4th downs than 1st or 2nd downs because if you pick up a 1st down on 2nd down, you never get to third down. Ed and crew are making were making 50% of their calls in about 30% of the game.

Now, it’s possible that someone pointed this out to Ed, because he tapered off late, but on the season Hochuli and company still threw their flags on 3rd or 4th down (or KOs or PATS) enough to account for 42% of all their penalties.

3rd and 4th down are always high leverage as, if you do not convert, it’s a turnover, and Ed had a biiiiig influence on the games he officiated as a result. For instance…

4. The previous Packers-Giants game

As I said, I don’t really think Hochuli favors a team, but he goes out of his way to make life interesting for everyone. There were 12 accepted penalties in this game. Ed et al threw flags 10 times on either third down or special teams. These included:

  1. An illegal shift on Green Bay wiping out a 21 yard gain to Randall Cobb.
  2. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Olivier Vernon wiping out an interception by Janoris Jenkins.
  3. A completed 11 yard pass to Davante Adams on 3rd and 10 wiped out by holding on David Bakhtiari
  4. An OPI call on Davante on 3rd and 2. (If memory serves this one was justified.)
  5. A holding penalty on Justin Pugh on 3rd and 16 (declined)
  6. A penalty on Roger Lewis for interfering with the ability to field a kick (15 yards of field position)
  7. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jeff Janis that cost the Packers 15 on special teams.

There was also your standard holding on kick returns, Ed really did a number on this game’s organic flow. And that was only 12 penalties.

5. Baltimore-Oakland

The previous week, Ed and company saw over a flag fest of epic proportions between the Ravens and Raiders. They threw the flag 22 times, with 9 of those coming on 3rd or 4th down, and an additional 5 on special teams. It was probably a joy to watch.

6. After a fast start, Ed calmed down or got bored, or was coerced into calming down by being assigned to boring games.

In the first half of the season, Hochuli threw a 3rd or 4th down flag 5 times or more in 4/8 games, and two of those exceeded 7 flags. In the back half of the season he never exceeded 5 flags, and met that number only twice. The Titan-Bear game saw only 1 flag, as did New England-Baltimore. The Jets and Rams only warranted 2. He also tapered off on special teams, but not as much.

7. Ed averaged 13.8 penalties per game for 119.8 yards per game.

The league average was 13.46 and 116.00

8. Crazy Special Teams Penalties

Ed called Leaping once, Fair Catch Interference or Interfering With the Ability to Field a Kick 3 times, Unsportsmanlike Conduct on special teams 3 times, Player Out of Bounds On Punt 3 times, and Offside on Special Teams 3 times. It’s not just blocks in the back with Ed out there.

9. Ed turned a 4th down into a 1st down through Defensive Holding 9 times this year. He called Defensive Pass Interference 7 times and OPI 3 times.

10. Finally, Ed had the most influence on these games:

  1. Packers-Giants, 83% of flags on 3rd down, 4th down, or ST.
  2. Baltimore-Oakland: 63.6%
  3. Cincinnati-Cleveland - 62.5%
  4. New York Jets-Buffalo - 54%
  5. Seattle-New Orleans - 54%