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NFL Takes Unprecedented Measure of Firing Official over Blown Call

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With a greater emphasis on many rules implemented in recent seasons by the NFL, players are being held to a higher standard than before.

It turns out the league’s officials are being held to a higher standard as well, and not achieving it has cost one official his job.

The NFL has fired down judge Hugo Cruz for performance reasons, as first reported Thursday by

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Cruz becomes the first NFL official to be fired in-season due to performance during the Super Bowl era.

He last worked in Week 6, where he made a glaring error in the Cleveland Browns-Los Angeles Chargers game.

As a down judge, Cruz was on the line of scrimmage, and on this particular play his responsibility was the left side of the line of scrimmage.

As any casual fan could clearly see, Chargers left tackle Russell Okung moved early while going up against Myles Garrett of Cleveland and should have been called for a false start.

The early jump gave the Chargers a great advantage on the play, which resulted in a touchdown. As the play-by-play man stated in the video, numerous Browns players hesitated at the start of the play as they anticipated a flag being thrown.

Did you agree with the NFL's decision to fire Cruz?

After the game, a 38-14 defeat, Browns coach Hue Jackson said another official from the game admitted to him that they missed the call.

“Yep. Yep. Missed it. Yeah, I was told they missed it. Was very honest on my side. It sure wasn’t the guy on the other side. It was definitely the guy on my side. That was (a false start),” Jackson said.

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That was the last NFL game that Cruz worked, as he was without an assignment for Week 7. reported Cruz was fired for “not meeting the standard over a sustained period of time.”

The NFL Referees Association indicated it will file a grievance on behalf of Cruz over what the union’s executive director said was a “reckless decision” by the league.

Cruz had been an NFL official for four seasons and was in his second season as a down judge. He had also spent time as a minor league baseball official.

The NFL grades officials on their performance for every play of every game. Numerous times they have reassigned officials or suspended them for games, but this is the first in-season termination.

The 2018 season marks the second year that the NFL has used full-time officials. Cruz wasn’t a full-timer, but 24 of the 121 (now 120) officials are full-time NFL employees.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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