With four of 17 referees gone, four new referees are in. And that could make officiating even more challenging this year for the NFL.
“I’ve never been involved in a season where you went with four new referees, and four referees that really haven’t been around the league that long,” FOX’s Mike Pereira, a former NFL V.P. of officiating, told Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “And first-year referees aren’t eligible for playoffs, so you’re going to dig deeper into the remaining stash of referees. That could create a problem, too.”
Gone are Jeff Triplette, Ed Hochuli, Gene Steratore, and Terry McAulay. And they may not be alone; according to Volin, four more referees (Walt Anderson, Walt Coleman, Pete Morelli, and Tony Corrente) could be walking away within the next year or two.
And referees aren’t like other officials. They wear the white hat, they run the crew, they speak to the audience. They are the names and faces that become the most recognizable, for better or worse, during football games.
The turnover comes at a time when there will be more pressure than ever on NFL officials. From the latest catch rule reboot to the new kickoff/kick return formations to a helmet rule that could revolutionize the game (in a bad way) to the looming proliferation of legalized gambling, officials will be expected now more than ever to get everything at a time when an unprecedented number of things can go wrong.
These new dynamics made it easy for McAulay to give up his whistle for a microphone.
“[McAulay] just said it didn’t make any sense not to take [NBC’s offer],” former NFL official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos told Volin. “He got a three-year contract, and he doesn’t have to put up with everything now.”
For Steratore, according to Daopoulos, the move was more about chronic knee and back problems. Still, the end result is nearly 25 percent of the referees gone — and another near-25 percent to follow.
And if anyone remembers the officiating lockout of 2012, it’s clear (despite the NFL’s claim) that replacements aren’t nearly as good as the real thing. The NFL will need to get the referee replacements up to speed quickly, or the existing criticism of officiating will only get worse.