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A bottom-half-of-the-league referee will be working the playoffs

Gene Steratore AP

The NFL playoffs are a meritocracy, with only 12 of the 32 teams invited, and that number whittled down each week until you get to one.

But if you’re an NFL official, you don’t even have to be in the top half of the class to make the postseason.

As Crabtree pointed out last night, Walt Coleman, John Parry, Gene Steratore and Ron Torbert will be the referees leading all-star crews in this weekend’s wild card games.

Since the league doles out playoff assignments based on regular season grades, and only the crew that works the Super Bowl will work a pair of playoff games (including one next weekend), it stands to reason that Coleman, Parry, Steratore and Torbert represent the seventh through 10th spots in the referee power rankings. There are 17 referees on the league’s official roster.

It would seemingly follow that next week we’ll see the top crew and crews four through six, and the second- and third-ranked crews will work conference championship games.

But that gets us back to this weekend.

Among these esteemed officials are two guys who administered a pair of high-profile mistakes on Monday nights, meaning the rest of their work must have been really good.

Torbert’s crew missed an obvious player trying to report eligible in the Cardinals-Ravens game, which the league circled back and admitted was a mistake.

Steratore attracted notice during the Patriots-Bills game for an inadvertent whistle that stopped a play and also for saying Bills wideout Sammy Watkins was “giving himself up” rather than trying to get out of bounds, which kept the Bills for having a chance at a Hail Mary.

Torbert will be working Saturday’s Chiefs-Texans game, while Steratore will be in Washington Sunday.

While the attention paid to officials’ mistakes has compounded (possibly but not absolutely at a higher rate than the mistakes themselves), the bigger problem might be trying to reward too many officials.

With no more than four games on any weekend, it’s a little hard to justify the guy who came in 10th of 17 advancing to the postseason, turning officiating assignments into the equivalent of a pre-Christmas college bowl game.

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50 Responses to “A bottom-half-of-the-league referee will be working the playoffs”
  1. boido says: Jan 6, 2016 1:36 PM

    They should make them work the Minnesota 0 degree game as punishment.

  2. waldoampere says: Jan 6, 2016 1:37 PM

    Wow. Incompetence in the league office. I’m stunned.

  3. ravenbiker says: Jan 6, 2016 1:39 PM

    In Baltimore we groan every time we see Steratore’s name as ref because we know it will be a horrendously officiated game.

  4. cheeks9441 says: Jan 6, 2016 1:40 PM

    “….and today’s referee is the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl”

  5. mrkbuilders says: Jan 6, 2016 1:41 PM

    Some things never change…..

  6. tmcb7 says: Jan 6, 2016 1:42 PM

    it’s not hard to figure out…
    the NFL doesn’t care who refs because it’s all about the shield. Not the players, not the coaches, not the fans and not the refs.
    -signed Roger Goodell

  7. yooperman says: Jan 6, 2016 1:42 PM

    Just expand the playoffs, that way Jeff Tripplete and the Cowboys make it to the post season.

  8. bksk07 says: Jan 6, 2016 1:42 PM

    Steratore is working playoff games?
    Oh boy not good

  9. Dark Chocolate says: Jan 6, 2016 1:43 PM

    This doesn’t remotely register on the list of football-related things people should care about. If this info winds anyone up, they need to take a close look at their lives.

  10. logicalvoicepft says: Jan 6, 2016 1:44 PM

    The National Fixed League is trying to screw the Redskins with this official but they can’t because we have the best roster left in the playoffs and the Packers are going to get #RondaRouseyed out of the playoffs. #HTTR

  11. sdisme says: Jan 6, 2016 1:45 PM

    Steratore didn’t blow the inadvertent whistle.

    Does he get blamed for his crew’s mistake?

  12. waldoampere says: Jan 6, 2016 1:46 PM

    This actually illustrates how the league office is more interested in making their employees happy than protecting the integrity of the game. Officiating crews are used to working every week. Why don’t they have the four best crews work the Wildcard round and then have the same four crews work the Divisional round. Then have the two best crews (of those four) work the Championship games and the best crew work the Super Bowl. It just seems pretty easy.

  13. Rdog says: Jan 6, 2016 1:46 PM

    You also have some bottom-half-of-the-league teams in the playoffs…

  14. Remember when PFT was about football? Now its just a bunch of whiney losers who cry about the Patriots says: Jan 6, 2016 1:47 PM

    Generally speaking, I have always thought Steratore was a pretty good ref. But they have all had their moments. Not long ago everyone thought Hocculi was the best ref, and in recent years everyone thinks he sucks. So who really knows.

    They don’t need more than 4 crews for the playoffs. So take the top 4 officials at each position, and create some “all star” crews.

    Mix them up, they get split into 4 crews, randomly, and work the 4 Wild Card games. then the following weekend you mix them up again randomly for the 4 Divisional games.

    Then for the conference Championship games you take the top 2 at each position, and randomly mix them up for the games.

    Then you take the top performer at each position for the Super Bowl Pretty simple. Sure you have officiating crews that have never worked together, but should that matter? The rules are the rules

  15. docsmith54 says: Jan 6, 2016 1:51 PM

    Can we stop with the Sammy Watkins episode? He stopped his own forward progress, and this would be a non-issue in the first quarter of a game. That it occurred with seconds left in the fourth quarter and that he went out-of-bounds are meaningless.

  16. vivaronmexico says: Jan 6, 2016 1:52 PM

    The Steratore one – no he didn’t blow the whistle, but they did seem to mess up the application of the rule as it came during the pass, not after the reception. Thus he confounded the original mistake by applying the rule wrong.

    But again he was watching Brady post-throw, so he can’t be too much to blame there either.

  17. imodan says: Jan 6, 2016 1:54 PM

    My odds on favorite to do the Super Bowl is Clete Blakeman. The guy sold his sole when he got involved in the botched deflategate sting. Of course one sells his soul to the devil and clearly the devil is Goodell.

  18. berniesmullet says: Jan 6, 2016 1:55 PM

    Steratore is a fantastic referee and one of the most highly respected officials by his peers. A wild card game is a downgrade for him, most probably because of the error of another official (not him–and an official probably sitting at home this post-season) blew an inadvertent whistle.

    Anybody who watches enough NFL or knows the slightest about officiating would know how good he is.

    Also, he happens to have also worked himself up to a big time BIG 10 basketball official. You know how hard it is to rise to the levels he has in two different sports?

    You go, Gene!

  19. tim8450 says: Jan 6, 2016 1:56 PM

    Demand perfection!

    and see how that works out for you.

  20. nicofthenorthstar says: Jan 6, 2016 1:59 PM

    Integrity of the shield.

  21. acdcubz says: Jan 6, 2016 2:03 PM

    Does anybody know where/if we can see these ref grades?

  22. footballmaven says: Jan 6, 2016 2:06 PM

    As a Pats fan I can never say a bad word abt Walt Coleman…

  23. norseyapper says: Jan 6, 2016 2:09 PM

    Complaining that some bottom half of the league refs/crews are working the playoffs is like tipping over the garbage can and complaining one heaping pile smells worse than another.

  24. thestrategyexpert says: Jan 6, 2016 2:09 PM

    Any official could potentially miss a call. If it’s important to minimize the impact of incorrect decisions with respect to what the league’s rules intend, then the only way to do that is to implement a process that isn’t reliant upon hoping that all of the officials never miss anything.

  25. patsfan says: Jan 6, 2016 2:11 PM

    Sadly, all you really need out of a ref going forward is someone who can parrot whatever the league office radios into his earpiece

  26. channel124 says: Jan 6, 2016 2:16 PM

    Surprised they didn’t bring Mile Carey out of retirement to work the Redskins game

  27. tridecagon says: Jan 6, 2016 2:17 PM

    Anybody wanna bet on whether Jeff Triplette and Jerome Boger are #16 and 17?

  28. PCa Survivor says: Jan 6, 2016 2:18 PM

    waldoampere says:
    Jan 6, 2016 1:46 PM

    This actually illustrates how the league office is more interested in making their employees happy than protecting the integrity of the game.

    ____________________________________

    I guarantee you the NFL does not like this any better than we do. It’s called trade unionism. Collective bargaining.

    Remember that time when they were locked out and all of us screamed to get them back. So they did. This is what you get when you don’t stand up to the union.

  29. paulrevereshorse1775 says: Jan 6, 2016 2:27 PM

    docsmith54 says:
    Jan 6, 2016 1:51 PM

    Can we stop with the Sammy Watkins episode? He stopped his own forward progress, and this would be a non-issue in the first quarter of a game. That it occurred with seconds left in the fourth quarter and that he went out-of-bounds are meaningless
    ——–

    EXACTLY.

    Not the first time it has been called this way, and won’t be the last.

  30. halfie6 says: Jan 6, 2016 2:28 PM

    To the person above who wondered why it would make a difference to work with refs you don’t normally work with, saying “the rules are the rules”….

    It definitely makes a HUGE difference. I can’t say whether it’s enough of a difference to make the all-star crews a bad idea because it’s possible that having the best refs at every position overcomes the communication challenges of working with refs you don’t know.

    I referee soccer, not football, and soccer has a much simpler set of rules. In addition, as a soccer referee you generally only need to be watching a couple of players at a time (with the exception of set plays or known flash-points off the ball). Despite all that, it still makes a really big difference for me to work with assistant referees who I know well. It’s important to be consistent in applying the rules and, in addition, to know where your partners are looking so you can be looking at something else and cover each other.

    I always feel like I call a better game when I have excellent communication with the other referees on my crew. You just don’t get that with someone you’ve never worked with before, no matter how skilled he may be at his job.

  31. tvguy22 says: Jan 6, 2016 2:30 PM

    I hope Pete Morelli and his band of nitwits is done for the season.

  32. ickky says: Jan 6, 2016 2:31 PM

    Its just so they can hand the game to the Packers. Then, they can use ref guy for a scapegoat

  33. paulrevereshorse1775 says: Jan 6, 2016 2:32 PM

    My guess is that Draft Kings and Fan Duel are in the process of setting up Fantasy Referee leagues right now. Pick the order of the highest rated refs in the playoffs!

  34. thegenoatkinsdiet says: Jan 6, 2016 2:39 PM

    After seeing the officiating this year, I thought all of the crews were in the bottom half.

  35. footballradioshow says: Jan 6, 2016 2:39 PM

    paulrevereshorse1775 says:
    Jan 6, 2016 2:27 PM
    docsmith54 says:
    Jan 6, 2016 1:51 PM

    Can we stop with the Sammy Watkins episode? He stopped his own forward progress, and this would be a non-issue in the first quarter of a game. That it occurred with seconds left in the fourth quarter and that he went out-of-bounds are meaningless
    ——–

    EXACTLY.

    Not the first time it has been called this way, and won’t be the last.

    Nope, you both are completely wrong. it should NEVER, ever, be called like it was in that game.

  36. godelligoodelligoo says: Jan 6, 2016 2:48 PM

    I thought the bottom half were penalized by being sent to PATS games!

    boy do i wonder who will be in foxboro next saturday…i guess Dean Blandino himself in stripes!

  37. selfpromotingqb says: Jan 6, 2016 2:53 PM

    Clete Blakeman got the Packers into the playoffs in 2013

  38. gregbeau says: Jan 6, 2016 2:56 PM

    Steratore is one of the best officials the NFL has. If he gets tired of that gig he could/should go into broadcasting the next day. Great voice.

  39. paulrevereshorse1775 says: Jan 6, 2016 3:10 PM

    footballradioshow says:
    Jan 6, 2016 2:39 PM

    Nope, you both are completely wrong. it should NEVER, ever, be called like it was in that game.

    ——–

    go read the rules. When a player fails to make an attempt to advance the ball and goes to the ground, he is considered down and the ball dead. he had stopped forward progress on his own, and his butt hit the ground BEFORE going out of bounds. it fits the rule exactly as it is written. If you don’t like the rule, maybe you can petition Goodell or Jeff Fisher to get it changed….but right now that is a rule.

    Funny thing is, it wouldn’t have bothered me if they had ruled him out of bounds and stopped the clock.

  40. tjacks7 says: Jan 6, 2016 3:16 PM

    I thought under Dean Blandino, all officials received automatic check plus and a gold star sticker on their review if they showed up and participated?

  41. þatfromwayba€k says: Jan 6, 2016 3:18 PM

    “Does anybody know where/if we can see these ref grades?”….
    Yes, it’s kept along side those incredibly important psi stats they NFL kept all season….

  42. paulrevereshorse1775 says: Jan 6, 2016 3:59 PM

    ^^^^^^

    in the same vault with the Jeff Pash ‘wordsmithed’ marked up version of the Wells report.

  43. Wisconsin's Favorite Son Jeffrey Be Dahmed says: Jan 6, 2016 4:13 PM

    Good or bad, all refs have special instructions for us.

  44. dizzybruhbruh33 says: Jan 6, 2016 4:38 PM

    Come on Washington! Let’s make these playoffs a bit more interesting than the same old thing. We’ll attempt to do our part as well…

    #SkolVikes #HTTR

  45. paulrevereshorse1775 says: Jan 6, 2016 4:41 PM

    Anyone know the Vegas line on the postseason highest rated referee?

  46. crownofthehelmet says: Jan 6, 2016 4:45 PM

    Two people are really happy about this news. A Rodgers, as now there will be someone on the field more incompetent at their job than he is at his, albeit slightly. And T Brady, as its easier to pull the wool over the eyes of those bottom half refs, and they’re more apt to give in to the constant whining for flags.

    They both will enjoy those refs for the one game they play this post-season.

  47. dwhcic says: Jan 6, 2016 4:51 PM

    Take the 4 crews that called the fewest penalties all year and let them call the games. Too many ticky tacky calls away from the ball are changing games. It’s disgusting.

  48. laserw says: Jan 6, 2016 5:10 PM

    Notice the absence of Ed Hockuli, Jeff Tripplette, and Jerome Boogers! All three are finalists for the Jim Tunney Incompetence in Officiating Award. As all three of these clowns are incompetent, the key here is to discover the true dog pile in the grow – there is so much stench that it is going to be a difficult time to pick the worst of the worst.

    Stay tuned – During Big Game Fifty, the winner will be announced and given a low mileage Chevrolet Cavalier from the 1990’s as his award. We don’t know if the vehicle runs, but with this award, why should being able to do your assigned function even matter for the prize?

  49. skins4me says: Jan 6, 2016 7:47 PM

    I see a lot of complaints here. If any of you can be a better ref then go for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  50. usdcoyotesfan says: Jan 7, 2016 5:56 PM

    selfpromotingqb says:
    Jan 6, 2016 2:53 PM
    Clete Blakeman got the Packers into the playoffs in 2013
    —————————————————
    I remember that. In the Packers-Bears game in week 17, he got the Packers into the playoffs by correctly ruling that Aaron Rodgers fumbled and Packers WR Jarrett Boykin picked up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.

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