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NFL doesn’t always put the highest-graded officials in the Super Bowl

Packers 49ers Football AP

For the 49ers and Ravens, the path to the Super Bowl was clear: They won their divisions, then won their playoff games, and now they have a chance to earn the right to be considered the best team in the NFL.

But the other seven men who will be on the field in the Super Bowl will get there through somewhat less meritorious means.

The eligibility requirements for the officials who work the postseason have been provided to PFT by the NFL, and they show that it’s not as simple as assigning the best officials to the biggest games. In fact, the NFL emphasizes taking turns to give more officials the opportunity to work in the playoffs, even if those officials don’t receive the highest grades that season.

In the 2012 regular season there were 18 referees in the NFL. Ten of them received playoff assignments: Alberto Riveron, Scott Green, Mike Carey and Peter Morelli worked wild card games; Bill Vinovich, Jerome Boger, Walt Coleman and Tony Corrente worked divisional games; Terry McAulay worked the NFC Championship and Bill Leavy worked the AFC Championship. The refs who didn’t make the playoffs were Walt Anderson, Clete Blakeman, Carl Cheffers, Ed Hochuli, John Parry, Gene Steratore, Jeff Triplette and Ron Winter.

It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that there’s something fishy about giving playoff assignments to 10 out of 18 refs. When you’re picking 10 from a pool of 18, by definition, you’re picking one who is below average. Does it really make sense for a below average ref to work a playoff game?

It would make a lot more sense to identify the four best referees in the league over the course of the regular season and make them the four playoff referees. Those four would then work the wild card games and the divisional round. Then the league office would award the two conference championship assignments to the two referees who grade out the best in the first two rounds of the playoffs. After the conference championship games, the NFL could give the referee who graded out better in the conference championship the Super Bowl assignment, and give the other conference championship ref a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.

If a close call is being decided and a playoff game is on the line, wouldn’t you rather have the first-, second-, third- or fourth-best ref making the call, instead of the 10th-best ref?

When it comes to the Super Bowl assignment, the NFL continues to value taking turns, even if it means putting the calls into the hands of someone who did not grade out as the league’s best referee. The NFL’s rules state only that an official has to be among the Top 5 highest-graded officials at his position to work the Super Bowl, and the rules specifically state that no official can work two Super Bowls in a row. But why not always assign the Super Bowl to the No. 1 highest-graded referee? And why shouldn’t an official work consecutive Super Bowls if he grades out as the best in the NFL for two consecutive seasons?

Although the NFL has not confirmed the assignment, it’s been widely reported that Jerome Boger will work this year’s Super Bowl. That has raised some eyebrows with other officials, who claim Boger’s grades were artificially enhanced by the league office, and the officiating website FootballZebras.com has raised questions about why Boger is working a Super Bowl when he has never previously worked a conference championship game.

The NFL doesn’t give out details about referees’ grades, so there’s no way to say for sure whether Boger was the best ref in the NFL this season, according to the league’s criteria. It would make a lot more sense for the NFL to simply say this: The best officials will always work the Super Bowl.

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55 Responses to “NFL doesn’t always put the highest-graded officials in the Super Bowl”
  1. blacknole08 says: Jan 25, 2013 12:55 PM

    There’s only 11 playoff games – counting the SB – so picking 10 doesn’t make a difference.

    I am somewhat suprised by which referees were picked out of the 18 though (Hochuli, Steratore, Anderson even)

  2. blacknole08 says: Jan 25, 2013 12:56 PM

    **Rather weren’t picked

  3. cetera5 says: Jan 25, 2013 12:59 PM

    Oh, come now. You can’t have it both ways. The NFL has been about taking turns for a long time now. The NFL is not about making sure the best of the best is running the show. It is just as much a pageant, at all levels.

    Sure, lets make the playoff officials the very best the game has to offer. Then what’s next, eliminating the Rooney rule so only the best coaches are interviewed and hired, without any racial quotas at all?

    It won’t happen in this NFL. Just good enough is plenty good enough as long as it meets the PR needs of the NFL. Quality will always play second fiddle to PR as long as the quality on the field is “good enough” to keep the revenues up.

  4. seahawks4alltime says: Jan 25, 2013 1:00 PM

    Anything is better than the Bill Leavy and the refs of SuperBowl XL.

  5. crubenst says: Jan 25, 2013 1:01 PM

    If the NFL acknowledges that some referees are better than others, they would have to pay more for better refs. The NFL is better off economically to claim that all referees are equal and interchangeable so that they can justify paying less and keeping the supply of refs high. And as we know, the NFL does everything based on economics.

  6. fuglyflorio says: Jan 25, 2013 1:01 PM

    There’s got to be a lot more to this story. They must hate this Boger guy for some reason.

  7. wrdtoyrmama says: Jan 25, 2013 1:06 PM

    While doing it for Wild Card games is perhaps, acceptable. As the games get more important, the stakes higher, the NFL does a dis-service to the players and the fans by not putting the best officials, or officiating team out on the field.

    Maybe a little more professionalism, and a little less experimentation/feel good decisions, coming from Goodell’s suite, would be a good path to follow.

    The Commissioner not hugging draftees, and putting the best referees on the field for the championship game, would be a great start to re-emphasize the PROFESSIONALISM in PRO Football.

  8. ricardorobertasq says: Jan 25, 2013 1:07 PM

    How about letting the best “teams” work the playoff games?

  9. Lucky82 says: Jan 25, 2013 1:10 PM

    NoFunLeague

    Low socks = $10,500

    Quality Officiating $0.00

    Las Vegas Loves Ya Baby, who needs accountability?

    This is Goodell’s NFL “Integrity” at it’s finest

  10. thegreatgabbert says: Jan 25, 2013 1:11 PM

    Put my vote down for the least blind mouse.

  11. dohpey28 says: Jan 25, 2013 1:13 PM

    I think it’s ridiculous they take “all-star” crews. Why not take the 4 best crews from the year, and look them work the first 2 playoff weekends. The 2 best crews from those weeks do the championships and the best crew does the SB. They know how to work with each other, we won’t see those 5 minute ridiculous huddles that we’ve seen during the playoffs. They know each others strengths and weaknesses from working together all year.

  12. blackandbluedivision says: Jan 25, 2013 1:16 PM

    It would make a lot more sense to identify the four best referees in the league over the course of the regular season and make them the four playoff referees. Those four would then work the wild card games and the divisional round. Then the league office would award the two conference championship assignments to the two referees who grade out the best in the first two rounds of the playoffs. After the conference championship games, the NFL could give the referee who graded out better in the conference championship the Super Bowl assignment, and give the other conference championship ref a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
    _______________________________

    Jeez I have that BCS headache again. You’re suggesting a NFL ref-off (Playoff system). Why not go back and let a computer system decide based off strength of schedule?

  13. opbilly says: Jan 25, 2013 1:19 PM

    i dont think we really have to ask why??? i heard 2 weeks ago that boger was going to be the referee. i have to say that boger is a pretty good referee but far from the best. its all about perceptions. otherwise the league would have the top rated referees do the playoffs and superbowl no matter who they are! and if the top grades out the best two years in a row, you can have the second best for the super bowl and it wont be much of a dropoff. but its not all about what should be done but rather what the league thinks has to be done

  14. PriorKnowledge says: Jan 25, 2013 1:25 PM

    hey, look at it this way. taking turns is more fair. These refs are old men running up and down a field with a bunch of guys in their 20’s. Give them a break and let them get some glory time in the playoffs.

  15. greg2geez says: Jan 25, 2013 1:25 PM

    I can’t believe they don’t just have Walt Coleman ref every game he’s totally controversy free!

  16. glac1 says: Jan 25, 2013 1:27 PM

    it’s obvious the NFL doesn’t always get the two best teams playing in the game either!

  17. PeterKingLovesCoqAVin says: Jan 25, 2013 1:29 PM

    I think we can all agree than Ron Winter is terrible, though.

  18. yssupasigninnamnotyep says: Jan 25, 2013 1:36 PM

    What is the point of grades then? Highest graded should get the biggest game…period.

  19. bayafan says: Jan 25, 2013 1:39 PM

    The NFL should only pick the head ref and then let the head ref pick his crew.

  20. bigbluefan11 says: Jan 25, 2013 1:47 PM

    Obviously, the best ref is not assigned the Super Bowl. Ed Hoculi has worked it. No additional information is needed.

  21. thesmedman says: Jan 25, 2013 1:50 PM

    Bring back Jerry Markbreit, Jim Tunney, Ben Dreith, or Red Cashion! They’d give everyone on the field “the business”…

  22. dexterismyhero says: Jan 25, 2013 1:53 PM

    Dick Bavetta!!!!!!!

  23. pixelito says: Jan 25, 2013 2:04 PM

    A bad holding call changed the course of last year’s Superbowl.

  24. thejohnsmith1122 says: Jan 25, 2013 2:06 PM

    I really really hope a bad call comes from this. It doesn’t make sense NOT to put in your best refs for the biggest game of the year that each team put so much put in so much effort just to get there.

    As stated above, it’s really nothing new but after such a debacle was made of replacement refs, the NFL should help give the fans and players the best only.

  25. beavertonsteve says: Jan 25, 2013 2:06 PM

    I wonder if any replacement refs graded out in the top 10? That would be pretty funny.

  26. citizenstrange says: Jan 25, 2013 2:13 PM

    “It’s what the fans want.” — R. Goodell

  27. ktfulmer says: Jan 25, 2013 2:15 PM

    Bill Vinovich’s crew proved this during idea during the divisional series with their inconsistent definition of pass interference, constant delays in the action, and spotting the Ravens’ their first 14 points via a pass interference call on Tony Carter and a non-call both for defensive holding and pass interference that led to a pick six.

  28. wrdtoyrmama says: Jan 25, 2013 2:32 PM

    If a Jeff Triplette led crew did the game, I’d wager there’d be good chance we could see a 6 hour Super Bowl.

    Think of all the ad time the NFL could sell if that was the case….

  29. ldfontenot says: Jan 25, 2013 2:33 PM

    All i know, is that some way, some how, this is about money…either how to increase, or how to make sure there is no decrease to, the NFL coffers.

  30. sourdoughsam says: Jan 25, 2013 2:42 PM

    I still don’t think the sky is falling because Bogan was chosen as head ref for the big game, but I agree with some of the commenters here that the NFL should select the best crews if they want the best officiating. It’s almost a no-brainer, in my opinion.

  31. jtbndy says: Jan 25, 2013 2:47 PM

    If you’re picking the top 10 of 18 you’re picking one from under the median, which does not necessarily equal the average.

    For instance, say the top 9 refs scored 8s and next scored a 6 and the bottom 8 scored 2’s (say on a 10 point scale). The average in this case is 5.2, making all refs “above average”.

    Obviously we don’t know what the grades/numbers were, but to say there’s “at least one below average” is incorrect.

  32. silverhornet says: Jan 25, 2013 2:52 PM

    For a second I thought the refs get paid for each game and that’s why it’s important for each of them to work as many games as possible. But I then remembered they are on salary, so however many games they work doesn’t matter.

  33. snowpea84 says: Jan 25, 2013 2:55 PM

    For starters, what does below average matter? If all refs are very good, then even the worst of them would still be good. Comparing them just to each other is not relevant. However, I’m not saying all the refs are good, just that your reasoning is bad.

  34. wolfmagic2012 says: Jan 25, 2013 2:56 PM

    Right on. We’ve had it up to here with sub-par refs. NFL teams don’t get to the POs unless they are among the best in the league – it should be no different witht the refs: Those with the best grades get to go, in that order. The PO games are too important to entrust with below average performers.

  35. snaponrules says: Jan 25, 2013 3:02 PM

    Just more of the same racial crap the league has been trying to force down everybody’s throat.
    No, dont hire the best coach for your team. Hire a minority coach or we will throw fits.

    No you cant have the best ref, but you are getting a minorty ref. That should be just as important.

  36. jrdnrnsm says: Jan 25, 2013 3:02 PM

    Where are the replacement refs when you need ‘em?

  37. drock36 says: Jan 25, 2013 3:16 PM

    Well that would explain the Seahawk-Steeler SB

  38. insertrandomletters says: Jan 25, 2013 3:18 PM

    I could see why they would rotate the referees, because every game has questionable calls, and sometimes the refs get it wrong.

    For example: If there was a questionable call made in say, the Broncos vs. Ravens, that went in the Ravens favor, there might be crazy 49ers fans that think if the same referee was used, then that’s a mark already against them because the referee made a favorable call against their opponent in a previous game.

    Maybe the rule should be that the Superbowl referee should be the highest graded official that did not referee a playoff game featuring either team.

  39. cosanostra71 says: Jan 25, 2013 3:31 PM

    How did Hochuli not make it? What a joke!

  40. dandrewsaccosaccoct says: Jan 25, 2013 3:47 PM

    Amazing how quick we are to mention racism when it comes to the lack of people of color hired in the latest round of GM and HC hirings but are not willing to mention it when the NFL hands the Superbowl referee slot to someone who just might not deserve it based on merit. I guess racism is ok when it occurs in a form that appeals to mainstream sensibilities.

  41. moosedaddy357 says: Jan 25, 2013 3:51 PM

    How about some critical thinking before making any judgments about the league’s decisions? Would you REALLY want the same ref in the Super Bowl every year, even if he’s the best? What if your favorite team is in the Super Bowl and he made a bad call or two in the other team’s favor in the Super Bowl last year? Which one of these situations would cause more problems for the league?

    Sometimes the criticism and wild speculation is unfreakingbelievable. Lay off the ganj, bro.

  42. snaponrules says: Jan 25, 2013 3:53 PM

    I think they should have Bill Leavy ref this super bowl.
    Just to see if he can somehow get the steelers another trophy.

  43. blindzebras says: Jan 25, 2013 3:58 PM

    Jan 25, 2013 3:47 PM

    Amazing how quick we are to mention racism when it comes to the lack of people of color hired in the latest round of GM and HC hirings but are not willing to mention it when the NFL hands the Superbowl referee slot to someone who just might not deserve it based on merit. I guess racism is ok when it occurs in a form that appeals to mainstream sensibilities.

    You’re right, there are no Hispanics in that crew. Other than that, it seems to be somewhat representative of the overall population as far as percentages go.

  44. fwippel says: Jan 25, 2013 4:04 PM

    This is politically incorrect to say, but this sounds like an affirmative action program for the NFL officials, and not one based on race, but someone’s idea of ‘fairness’.

    Is there any logical reason at all as to why the best officials are not assigned playoff games? If so, I’d love to hear it.

    The officials deserve to be rewarded for doing their jobs well. Not considering the best graded officials to work the playoffs is a disincentive, and honestly calls into question the league’s intent here. The last thing I want to see in the Super Bowl is another Steelers-Seahawks debacle.

    Where is the common sense in this approach currently in place.

  45. blindzebras says: Jan 25, 2013 4:19 PM

    I think it’s a Union thing, they want as many of their member Ref’s as possible to get a piece of the pie.

  46. philrat says: Jan 25, 2013 5:12 PM

    Typical outcome where a union is involved!

  47. Deb says: Jan 25, 2013 6:42 PM

    Goodell obsesses (in his rhetoric) about protecting “the shield.” What could be more important to protecting the shield than ensuring a legitimate outcome for each game?

    I’ve rewatched SBVL enough times to be confident the outcome is what it would have been had every call been accurate. But how can the league justify the fact that seven years after such a controversial game nothing has been done to improve officiating? We still have officials who don’t know the rules, crews who don’t train together, bizarre replay rules that allow illegal TDs to stand if a coach throws a challenge flag when he shouldn’t, aging officials who can’t keep up with the action. And now we discover that grade-school turn-taking rules mean Super Bowls are being officiated by inexperienced referrees???

    Goodell can’t expect me to take the integrity of his shield seriously until he does.

  48. nflr92 says: Jan 25, 2013 6:46 PM

    Two ways to move in and then up – skin and kin.

    Not just the NFL but also NCAA.

  49. fc187 says: Jan 25, 2013 6:58 PM

    Heck, the NFL doesn’t put the best officials at most games on Sunday during the season.

    Maybe they shouldn’t hire visually impared officials.

  50. roadtrip3500 says: Jan 25, 2013 7:31 PM

    I didn’t expect Hochuli back this year because he did the NFCCG last year. I didn’t expect Parry back, because he did the Saints-49ers division game and the Super Bowl last year. Riveron worked last year’s AFCCG and was only back this year for a wild-card game.

    So there are your guys who got rotated out of the top games this year. I can accept that.

    If you have worked one of the three championship games, you should be ineligible for the next two seasons. The following season, you look at the highest-graded refs, you subtract the 6 that are ineligible because they worked one of the Big 3 games the previous two seasons, and you select the top 3 of the remaining refs. That allows for turnover, guys who improve their grades, and still gives the best of the best a decent chance to work a Big 3 every 3 years if they remain at the top of their craft.

    When the officials lockout was ended, we were promised accountability. So far, we don’t have it.

  51. csilojohnson says: Jan 25, 2013 8:33 PM

    Fire them all. Please. They are crap. Every last one of them.

  52. zerophocus says: Jan 25, 2013 9:06 PM

    As long as they put a minority there this site will be happy.

  53. gregbeau says: Jan 25, 2013 9:17 PM

    Hochuli and Steratore are the best, Carey is pretty good, Leavy is horrible and Boger is not much better. I don’t care what the scoring says.

  54. voldermort1993 says: Jan 26, 2013 1:04 AM

    At least Jeff is not in there. Oh that man makes up more calls than a two year old’s imagination. And they usually alter the game. Such as Phil River’s false starting and the Packers-Saints game officiating was terrible. Also Jeff made up the forearm to Brady’s head in the Redskins-Pats game last year. London Fletcher’s arm let alone forearm was nowhere near Tom’s head.

  55. oilman989 says: Jan 27, 2013 1:30 PM

    dandrewsaccosaccoct has a point.

    Next to the four-letter network, the National Football League is the most politically correct organization on the face of the planet. ‘Nuff said.

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