Some facts about NFL referees

A ton of threads and posts are made each year on our forum about NFL referees. Most are complaints about what are considered inconsistent or inaccurate calls. Some fans even (surprise!) throw out elaborate conspiracy theories that somehow Roger Goodell and his dark minions at the league office are stacking the deck for our enemy teams and against us.

Whatever your opinion is either way is fine by me as long as your opinions are within the rules we agree to follow here. I thought it would be helpful to know some of the facts about refs and what they do.

Disclaimer: I’m not here to attack or defend NFL referees or the quality of their work. (I will say I think NFL officials call way too many penalties but I don’t buy any dark conspiracies against the Cowboys or for or against any other team)

This post is simply designed to show some links to articles about NFL refs and their training, evaluations and how the league handles all things related to officiating games.


  • According to the NFL in 2023, there are 121 certified NFL referees working games. I don’t know how many are on the field vs the booth.
  • There are 17 official crews each working NFL games weekly. At least 1 crew is floating because there can never be more than 16 NFL games per given week.
  • From what I’ve read, the NFL requires each ref to have at least 10 years of officiating football games before working an NFL game. That includes collegiate and HS games. Of those 10 years at least 5 must include major college games.
  • Each NFL game averages about 150 plays per game. Each play is analyzed by the league for accuracy of penalty calls or missed calls.
  • Each NFL referee is evaluated by the league. The highest-graded officials work the playoffs. Those who have been graded as subpar during the regular season watch the playoffs from home.
  • Officials with the poorest evaluations can be dropped at the end of the season. All are on 1 year contracts.


This doesn’t cover everything of course. But if interested, at least you can get into some of the facts regarding NFL refs.

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