Zebra Hunt: Larry Nemmers

Zebra Hunt: Larry Nemmers

In the return of Seahawks.NET's referee scouting series, Doug Farrar goes inside the numbers of the crew assigned to call Seattle's 2007 season opener against Tampa Bay. It's a crew that's more familiar with Mike Holmgren's team than it seemed to be with one particular penalty that the NFL wanted to see called more in 2006…

Collar I.D.

All players are prohibited from…grabbing the inside collar of the back of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling down the runner. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.

Penalty: Loss of 15 yards. If any of the above acts is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant, the offender may be disqualified as long as the entire action is observed by the official(s).

The 2006 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League, Rule 12, Section 2, Article 1

At least two officials didn't get the memo.

In the second week of the 2006 season, the Seattle Seahawks won a game against the Arizona Cardinals…and started to lose their franchise running back. Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett took Shaun Alexander down by the back of the jersey collar on separate plays. Both "tackles" occurred outside the tackle box, but the officials best in position to call the penalties, side judge Carl Cheffers and umpire Undrey Walsh, did not do so. Both Rolle and Dockett were fined by the league after the plays were reviewed. Eventually, the new focus on the "Roy Williams Rule" (named after the Dallas safety infamous for his reverse takedowns) took hold, and 14 horse-collars were flagged during the 2006 season.

That factoid didn't help Alexander. The foot injury that first gained momentum in the season opener against the Detroit Lions grew a real head of steam following the Rolle and Dockett infractions. After 20 rushing attempts in Game 3 against the Giants, Alexander was lost for six games to a broken metatarsal bone in his left foot. Though Cheffers and Wash later admitted that they caught hell from the league for missing the calls, the NFL's professed interest in using the rulebook to protect its players takes a blow with every missed horse-collar call.

What does this have to do with Seattle's 2007 season opener? The head official in that Arizona game was Larry Nemmers, and he'll be the top dog for the Seahawks' 2007 opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cheffers and Wash are still on his crew, in the same old familiar places:

REFEREE: Larry Nemmers—(20);
UMPIRE: Undrey Wash—(96);
HEAD LINESMAN: Mark Baltz—(26);
LINE JUDGE: Mike Spanier—(90);
FIELD JUDGE: Eddy Powers—(38);
SIDE JUDGE: Carl Cheffers—(51);
BACK JUDGE: Dino Paganelli—(105);
REPLAY: Lloyd McPeters;
VIDEO: Don Langeloh.

Inside the Numbers

Despite his crew's inability to call horse-collars, Nemmers (we'll refer to his crew in his person from now on for the sake of expediency) ranked among the most prolific flaggers in 2006 with 226, which was sixth overall among 17 crews – this per penalty data compiled by Football Outsiders. Ironically, Nemmers led the NFL in Unsportsmanlike Conduct calls with 7. He called more Illegal Contact than Pass Interference penalties – the swing on those two penalties among crews is a real eye-opener. His 42 holding penalties ties with Ed Hochuli and Gene Steratore ranked second behind Walt Anderson's 44.

Holding and False Start are going to be the most frequently called penalties in any given season, and the Seahawks ranked highly in both for the 2006 season – this was a reflection of the transitional nature of their offensive line. Seattle's 25 holds ranked third behind only Oakland and Minnesota; their 27 False Starts tied them with four other teams at fourth-worst in the NFL. Nemmers' 45 False Start calls was just over the league average, and nowhere near Ron Winter's 58.

Nemmers' crew called two games in which the Seahawks played last season – the aforementioned 21-10 win over the Cardinals, and the 20-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11. Both games featured balanced calls – the seven penalties in the Cardinals game went four for Seattle and three for Arizona, and the 10 flags in the loss to San Francisco saw five assigned to each team.

Nemmers also called one Tampa Bay game in 2006 – the Week 15 loss to the Chicago Bear at Soldier Field, a 34-31 squeaker. The 19 penalties in that game broke out as nine for Tampa Bay and 10 for Chicago. Nemmers didn't seem to have a home penalty bias, with 104 against the home teams and 122 for the visitors.

Here are the total penalties called by Nemmers' crew in 2006:

Penalty

Number

Yards

False Start

45

211

Offensive Holding

42

347

Defensive Offside

16

51

Illegal Contact

12

45

Unnecessary Roughness

12

136

Defensive Holding

12

45

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

7

94

Offensive Pass Interference

7

60

Encroachment

7

35

Delay of Game

7

35

Roughing the Passer

7

102

Illegal Block Above the Waist

7

64

Defensive Pass Interference

7

98

Personal Foul

6

78

Illegal Use of Hands

5

21

Neutral Zone Infraction

3

15

Illegal Formation

3

5

Face Mask (15 Yards)

3

45

Illegal Forward Pass

2

10

Chop Block

2

30

Illegal Substitution

2

10

Defensive 12 On-field

2

5

Invalid Fair Catch Signal

1

5

Offensive Offside

1

5

Fair Catch Interference

1

15

Illegal Touch Kick

1

5

Tripping

1

10

Ineligible Downfield Kick

1

5

Taunting

1

15

Face Mask (5 Yards)

1

5

Illegal Motion

1

5

Intentional Grounding

1

10

TOTALS

226

1622

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