Football Zebras™

Playoff officials won’t be best officials

Source: Jerome Boger to be Super Bowl referee

Hochuli, Steratore apparently shut out of postseason

In the first three weeks of the regular season, the NFL put an assorted group of officials on the field with questionable qualifications and tried to pass them off as professional caliber. That was a miserable failure. The league now wants to put otherwise unqualified officials in the Super Bowl, and thinks that no one will notice.

Jerome Boger conducts the coin toss at a Week 5, 2012 game in San Francisco between the Bills and 49ers.

Jerome Boger is scheduled to officiate Super Bowl XLVII, despite not being the highest ranked referee by our assessment. Referee Ed Hochuli and Gene Steratore will sit out of January and February football.  (San Francisco 49ers photo)

The standard has been, with a few additional criteria, that the highest ranking official in each position gets a Super Bowl assignment and runners-up go to the Conference Championship. Rankings are determined by evaluations of every single play and scores on written tests. Professionalism, maintaining the pace of the game, decisiveness, and physical fitness can also affect one’s ranking.

According to two former NFL officials, the league office intends on having Jerome Boger officiate Super Bowl XLVII. Boger’s season has not impressed even the casual fan this season. Just last week, Boger was pushed around, physically and figuratively, by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. He “misspoke” over the microphone, according to a post-game interview, and meant to assess Newton with a non-ejectable foul, rather than one he announced that is a certain ejection. If he is that indecisive and unable to assert himself, even if it means throwing a quarterback out of the game, how will he manage such a high profile game?

Boger is relatively inexperienced in postseason officiating, especially in the context of such a high profile assignment; in the six years he was eligible for the playoffs, Boger has worked only three games. To put Boger in charge of a Super Bowl crew would require the NFL to change their qualification criteria. NFL vice president of football communications Michael Signora told me that is not the case:

There is no change to the Super Bowl assignment system.  In order for an official at any position to be eligible for the Super Bowl, he must have at least five years of NFL experience and either a conference championship game assignment or a playoff assignment in the Wild Card or Divisional round in three of the past five years.

If that “3-of-5″ provision is unfamiliar to you, it’s because it’s not been openly discussed in past years, but we understand that provision has been in effect for all positions except the referee position. If that provision is extended to the “white hat” position, Boger still doesn’t qualify. In the past five postseasons, Boger has only worked on the field in the 2007 and 2009 Divisional Playoffs. (He also was assigned as an alternate in some of those off years.)

Merit system apparently discarded. To further bury the merit system used for postseason assignments, a former official said that there are officials on the Super Bowl roster who have failed written rules tests. Also, the supposed frontrunners will be sidelined for the playoffs.

“Ed Hochuli and Gene Steratore are not assigned to the playoffs,” an officiating source said. Hochuli has been assigned to the playoffs every year he’s been eligible since 1991, except for one. Steratore has been widely considered to be getting a Conference Championship game or Super Bowl assignment this season, based upon his on-field performance.

The assignments have not been released, and the NFL’s policy is to not release assignments for any game prior to day of kickoff. Officials generally learn of their assignment following their Week 17 game. It is unclear how the assignments were leaked to the current officials, as my sources declined to discuss that. They also acknowledge that the NFL could change some of the assignments.

Ray Anderson, the league’s outgoing executive vice president of football operations, apparently influenced the selection of postseason assignments. Carl Johnson, the vice president of officiating, will also be leaving at the end of the season. Typically, the assignments would be under the jurisdiction of Johnson, not Anderson.

One former official said the current officials he spoke with are not happy with the playoff assignment situation. He added, “the ones who work really hard and have very few ‘downgrades’ [wrong or missed calls] are being told, ‘You don’t get a playoff game’? That just doesn’t seem right to me.”

15 comments for “Playoff officials won’t be best officials

  1. Gary
    December 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    I thought the opposite: that between Steratore and Hochuli woud work the Super Bowl nd Conference Championship, and that Boger would be the lowest ranked referee.

  2. Josh
    January 1, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Could this be a case of race discrimination?

  3. January 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Maybe the NFL is exacting revenge on Hochuli for his leadership during the referee lock out.

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    January 1, 2013 at 10:58 pm

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  5. TexasJack
    January 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Ray Anderson, the league’s outgoing executive vice president of football operations, apparently influenced the selection of postseason assignments. Carl Johnson, the vice president of officiating, will also be leaving at the end of the season.

    BRING BACK MARKBREIT….BRING BACK MARKBREIT

    Can we hope Blakeman, Boger and Triplette will get CANNED

  6. John Hawkins
    January 5, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    The highlight of Jerome Boger’s career as a referee is ejecting Albert Haynesworth for stomping on a Dallas player years ago. Other than that he is probably one of the worst referees in the National Football League (along with Walt Coleman).

  7. David
    January 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    The NFL should be embarrassed to have Jerome Boger working any playoff game, let alone the Super Bowl. I am sick and tired of seeing him get too much face time. His crew throws more flags than should be allowed in an NFL game.

    Boger is just as pitiful as the previous #23, Johnny Grier. I cannot stand Boger, Riveron and Winter. I wish those three would just evaporate into thin air.

  8. David
    January 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    What happened to the days when the best officials worked the biggest games? Jim Tunney did back-to-back Super Bowls, XI and XII. Jerry Markbreit did a conference championship game or Super Bowl seemingly every year in the 1980s through the mid-1990s. Jim Tunney was always doing the big game in his prime. Now we get riff raff like Jerome Boger.

  9. Marti Sicairos
    February 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Someone needs to investigate this most serious matter, I’m sure its very deep & at the end, someone got paid big money. Jim Harbaugh needs to know, because he & his team got robbed!