One NFL fan is enraged by a penalty flag he sees fly on TV

He turns to the woman next to him and asks Atlanta Falcons
, "Where do they get these guys?"Replay then proves the call
was correct, and the fan just shrugs as the woman replies: "Guess they know what
they are doing."Those officials come from a pipeline established by the NFL that
seeks to identify people with the right skill set, temperament and judgment to
handle a thankless job week after week.Often, the league puts a high premium on
experience, even when some officials no longer seem to have the agility to keep
up with the incredible speed of the game. Among current referees, Walt Coleman
is in his 30th year as an NFL official, Walt Anderson has begun his 23rd and
Tony Corrente is in his 24th. Overall, there are 19 officials in the 20th or
more season of their NFL careers, and an additional 33 with at least 15 years on
the job.As explained by recently retired referee Gene Steratore, now with CBS as
an analyst, "The officials learn from all the time they spend on the field about
angles and getting the best view on a play."He points to the new rule banning
any hit initiated with the lowering of the head and use of the helmet, whether
by a defender or offensive player. Noting it is a "necessary rule change to
protect the safety of the players," Steratore understands there's an adjustment
period for those players and the officials before reaching a full understanding
of what should draw a flag."Sure there's a learning curve for them," he says,
"but then a trigger will show right before that contact, and it will become
clear if it is a penalty. I think that will come in a fast period of time."It
did. One such penalty was called in Week 1, on Kansas City safety Ron Parker.The
NFL Atlanta Falcons
, which has seven new officials this season, has a distinct
pipeline for talent. It's not entirely unlike the flow for players in that many
referees, umpires, linesman and judges come from the college ranks. But the
in-depth process can begin well before the highest college levels."We look at
officials at the high school level," says Al Riveron, the NFL's officiating
director. "After a few years in high school, they might move to the lower
college ranks and then to the Power Five conferences. We have a staff of 72
scouts and supervisors and our full-time officials who look at you. We first
home in on their skills, and we are thinking long term if we have an interest in
you. At some point, you could be ready (for the pros)."To aid in the process,
the league created the Officiating Development Program. Candidates must receive
medical clearance, pass a background check, take a psychological assessment and
complete an in-person interview with a panel of NFL staffers.If they are
accepted into the program, they study position-specific film with veteran NFL
officials and current officiating supervisors. They get familiar with NFL rules
that often are different from colleges. For example, clock stoppages to move the
chains on first downs, or one foot in bounds on receptions.Then the prospective
officials attend an NFL preseason officiating clinic, participate in minicamps
and training camps, and some work an NFL preseason game. They could get some
experience in the Senior Bowl Customized Atlanta
Falcons Jerseys
, East-West Shrine Game or NFLPA bowl game, as
well.When they are assessed for potential employment, the categories are:—Ready
for the highest level. The official gets a spot on an NFL crew when an opening
comes.—Great work, but room to improve. The league likes what it sees in the
official but determines he or she is not quite ready for the NFL. That officials
remains in the program.—Not the right fit. The league does not see this official
working in the NFL.There are 39 officials in the program this year.The NFL
always is looking for outlets through which to develop game officials. The CFL
and Arena League have been options, and they could have another when the
Alliance of American Footballs starts up the week after the Super Bowl."We're
keeping a big eye on the Alliance," Riveron says enthusiastically. "The more
officials get to see live snaps, the greater that is." Last week’s Thursday
Night Football game featured two teams with winning records, but it turned out
to be a blowout as the Pittsburgh Steelers walked all over the Carolina
Panthers.This week, the 4-5 Seattle Seahawks take on the 4-4-1 Green Bay Packers
and we’re going into this game without many expectations. That’s because
Thursday night games we’ve expected to be great haven’t lived up to that hype,
while games we expected to put us to sleep have been pretty exciting. When it
comes to Thursday Night Football this season, it’s best to go in with no
expectations.The Seahawks, who play at home tonight, are 7-1 on Thursday Night
Football under Pete Carroll. Seven of the nine Thursday night games so far this
season have been won by the home team with the road team winning only in games
against teams that currently have two wins (the Eagles beat the Giants in New
York and the Broncos beat the Raiders in Oakland). If you go into tonight with
any expectation, it should be that the home team — the Seahawks — will win.Here
are five things we’ll be watching for when the Seahawks and Packers meet on
Thursday Night Football (Fox/NFL Network, 8:20 p.m. ET).1. Russell Wilson has
been on fire while Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been Aaron RodgersIn the three games
since the Seahawks’ bye week, Wilson has thrown eight touchdowns, one
interception ,
has a 71.5 completion percentage, and a 123.5 passer rating. Wilson is heating
up, and it comes at a good time as the Seahawks have a tough road ahead to make
it to the playoffs. In his past six Thursday games, Wilson is 6-0 with 12
passing touchdowns and only three interceptions for 111.9 rating. Wilson needs
one more win to tie Dave Krieg as the Seahawks’ winningest quarterback in the
regular season with 70. Will it come tonight?We typically think of Aaron Rodgers
as an annual top three quarterback. But Rodgers hasn’t been as special as usual
this season. His 61.1 completion percentage ranks 13th in the league, he ranks
11th in touchdown passes with 17, and his passer rating of 100.0 ranks 14th.
Those don’t sound like Aaron Rodgers-type numbers. He does only have one
interception, which is tied with Drew Brees for the best in the NFL among
starting quarterbacks. How will Rodgers look tonight, on the road, after a short
week of preparation? In a tough NFC North, the Packers can’t afford to lose many
more games if they want to make it to the postseason. We never count Rodgers
out, but this year may be different.2. Legion of Whom?The Legion of Boom has
been depleted in Seattle. Gone are Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, and Kam
Chancellor. Meanwhile Earl Thomas is on Injured/Reserve after a contentious
offseason. So what is the Seahawks defense without those players?In summary:
just better than average. They rank 12th in yards per game, ninth in points per
game, seventh in interceptions (though three of their 10 came from Thomas before
his injury), 15th in forced fumbles, and 18th in sacks. Their +8 turnover
differential is tied with the Rams for the fourth best in the league.Eight of
the Seahawks’ 23 sacks have come from Frank Clark. The defensive end has five
sacks Atlanta Falcons
, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in his past
four games and is aiming for his third game in row at home with a tackle for
loss.3. Jimmy Graham faces his former teamThe Packers don’t often make a splash
in free agency, but they did when signing Jimmy Graham to be Rodgers’ new top
tight end. Graham spent the prior three seasons with the Seahawks as one of
Wilson’s favorite targets and was named to the Pro Bowl twice during that
time.Graham has five touchdown receptions in his last four road games against
NFC West teams and ranks second in receiving touchdowns against NFC West teams
since 2010, falling behind only Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who
has 19 receiving touchdowns in 51 games against the division.Graham is off to a
solid start this season with 33 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll
be looking to add onto that against his former team tonight.4. The Griffin
brothersAs we keep an eye on the Seahawks’ revamped defense, that includes
brothers Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin. Shaquill has 32 total tackles, five
passes defensed, and two interceptions this season as a starting cornerback for
the team. Shaquem is the one-handed rookie linebacker who was the talk of the
2018 NFL combine. He doesn’t play much, in fact his Gillette commercial gets
more run than he does on-the-field. But he’s an inspiring player and has a
phenomenal story, so we’re always looking to see what he does next.Shaquill’s
two interceptions both came in Week 2 in a primetime game against the Bears.
He’s thrived in the spotlight before and this should be a big-time game for two
teams looking to make a push toward the playoffs.5. Both teams’ fanbases expect
to winSeahawks fans are far more confident in both the direction of their season
and tonight’s outcome, though both teams’ fanbases do expect to win today,
according to fans surveyed as part of SB Nation’s FanPulse polling. 69 percent
of Seahawks fans are confident in the direction of the team heading into Week 11
while only 34 percent of Packers fans feel the same way about their squad.Acme
Packing Company FanPulse: Packers by 1Field Gulls FanPulse: Seahawks by 4Odds:
Seahawks -3Grid View
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