Zebra Hunt: Walt Anderson

He's the man responsible for the "no-call" on Minnesota's E.J. Henderson on the play that caused Matt Hasselbeck to sprain his knee. He lives a mere 260 miles from Dallas. Yet the Seahawks appear to be fortunate, at least upon first glance - Walt Anderson, the man who will call the Seattle-Dallas playoff game, is one of the most consistent and well-respected referees in the game.

Of course, Bill Leavy was once respected, too. These things can change so quickly…

Two plays that did not receive penalty calls, and (at least one) most certainly should have, affected the Seattle Seahawks’ 2006 season as much as any other factors. The first play occurred on the first drive of Seattle’s 21-10 Week Two win over the Arizona Cardinals. On 2nd and 9 from the Arizona 16-yard line, Shaun Alexander took the ball from Matt Hasselbeck and ambled right for 14 yards before bring brought down out of bounds by as blatant a horse collar tackle as you’ll ever see, courtesy of Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle – for the record, the third-most penalized NFL Player during the 2006 regular season with 14 for 117 yards.

Alexander scored a rushing touchdown on the next play, but the die was cast, and the 2005 NFL MVP cited this tackle as an aggravation to the foot injury he first suffered in the season opener against the Detroit Lions. Alexander was later diagnosed with a crack in the fourth metatarsal bone in his left foot and missed six games.

Though Rolle was not flagged (despite the fact that side judge Carl Cheffers of Larry Nemmers’ crew was just a few feet away from the play), the NFL later decided that he should be fined $5,000 for the illegal tackle. How this penalty wasn’t called during the NFL’s supposed second straight season with a renewed emphasis on horse-collar tackles is anyone’s guess.

The second play occurred in the Week Seven contest between the Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings. This game set up as a barn-burner due to the aftereffects of the “poison-pill” contract the Vikings used to spirit All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson away from Seattle. The vibe would get blacker in a big hurry.

On 3rd and 15 from the Seattle 28-yard line, and less than a minute elapsed in the game’s second half, linebacker E.J. Henderson rolled into the right knee of Matt Hasselbeck after the Seahawks quarterback had clearly released the ball. Henderson was neither flagged nor fined, and Hasselbeck missed four weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament. The view on Henderson’s “roll” was less conclusive than it was on Rolle’s tackle – but in a season overflowing with twitchy roughing the passer calls, how this wasn’t called at the time is anyone’s guess yet again.

The latter game was officiated by Walt Anderson, and Anderson’s crew will roll back into Qwest Field for the wild-card playoff game between the Seahawks and the Cowboys on Saturday at 5:00 PM PST.

An official for 32 years, Anderson has spent the last ten seasons in the NFL. First as a line judge, and then as a referee since 2003, Anderson has worked in the postseason every year he’s been eligible. That’s five Wild Card (including this one), two Divisional and three Championship games, along with Super Bowl XXXV. Working his way up to the top, the former Academic All-American from Sam Houston State University in Texas (graduating in 1974) took his love of the game as a player and began officiating at the little league level.

Anderson progressed through high school leagues, and spent eleven years calling games in the Lone Star (Division II), Southland (Division I-AA), and Southwest Athletic (Division I) conferences before NFL scouts gave him the call. In April of 2006, Anderson was named the Coordinator of Officials for the Big 12 Conference. The Henderson non-call aside (and that appeared to be inconclusive as to the level of intentional contact), Anderson doesn’t have a Tuck Rule or Super Bowl XL in hist past. For a long-tenured official, he seems to have a remarkably skeleton-free closet.

Anderson’s 2006 Season

Using the data gathered by Football Outsiders from the official play-by play for every regular-season game, we can get a good read on the tendencies of officials over a full season. In 2006, Anderson’s crew called 194 penalties in 15 games, twelfth in the NFL (Tony Corrente’s crew called the most with 242, and Walt Coleman’s crew threw the fewest flags with 156).

However, Anderson’s team called the most holding penalties in the league (44). This is something that should catch the attention of the Seahawks. Seattle was flagged 24 times for holding in 2006, tied for third-most in the NFL with Detroit, behind Minnesota’s 27 and Oakland's 25. (For the morbidly curious Seahawks fans, Steve Hutchinson wasn’t charged with a single penalty of any kind in 2006).

In the Week Seven Seahawks-Vikings game, Anderson called holding four times – twice on Seattle (Walter Jones, Marcus Trufant) and twice on Minnesota. Dallas was called for holding 17 times in 2006. Anderson also ranks highly in defensive holding. Interestingly, considering the non-call on E.J. Henderson, Anderson called the second-most roughing the passer penalties in 2006 – nine to Ed Hochuli’s ten.

Team Numbers

The Seahawks and Cowboys were both flagged 113 times in 2006, and that ties them for twelfth in the NFL. Anderson called one game for each team this year – the SEA-MIN contest, in which 13 total penalties were called (seven for Seattle and six for Minnesota), and the Week Twelve Cowboys-Buccaneers game, which was won decisively by Dallas, 38-10. In that contest, only nine total penalties were called, and only three on the Cowboys.

In addition to his officiating duties, Anderson was a dentist for many years – he is currently retired, and he resides in Sugar Land, Texas, 25 miles southwest of Houston and about 260 miles southeast of Dallas.

Walt Anderson Penalties – 2006 Season

Offensive Holding


False Start


Defensive Offside


Defensive Holding


Defensive Pass Interference


Roughing the Passer


Unnecessary Roughness


Illegal Block Above the Waist


Face Mask (15 Yards)


Delay of Game




Offensive Pass Interference


Illegal Use of Hands


Illegal Contact


Illegal Formation


Defensive 12 On-field


Intentional Grounding


Ineligible Downfield Pass


Personal Foul


Unsportsmanlike Conduct


Neutral Zone Infraction


Illegal Motion




Ineligible Downfield Kick




Illegal Substitution


Illegal Crackback


Illegal Procedure




Anderson’s 2006 crew consists of the following officials:

Referee: Walt Anderson (66)
Line Judge: Gary Arthur (108)
Field Judge: Terry Brown (43)
Umpire: Butch Hannah (40)
Side Judge: Larry Rose (128)
Head Linesman: Phil McKinnely (110)
Back Judge: Billy Smith (2)
Replay Official: Dale Hamer
Video Operator: Brian Matoren

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. He also writes the weekly "Manic Monday" feature for FoxSports.com. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.

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