Veteran’s move leaves 11 vacancies for 2014
Football Zebras exclusive
Football Zebras can report that umpire Garth DeFelice will leave the field and become one of the regional supervisors for the officiating office. The supervisors have traditionally been the graders that evaluate the game tapes for accuracy in the officials’ calls. This position used to be based out of the league office; now it is handled on a telecommuting basis, with supervisors meeting in New York periodically. DeFelice will replace Ed Coukart, a former official and long-time assistant in the officiating department. Coukart is taking a part-time position, according to officiating sources.
DeFelice joined the NFL in 1998, officiated in Super Bowl XL, and, amazingly, worked most of his career on artificial knees, having a double knee replacement surgery in 2000, and successfully passing his physical a few months later.
DeFelice has been known for his toughness on the field over the years and he did not tolerate any disrespect towards the opponents or the officials. In 2013, DeFelice was involved in an officials’ conference that preceded an apparent pass interference call against the Panthers on a Patriots’ last-second drive. After the conference, the flag was picked up, allowing a game-ending interception to stand.
The NFL declined to comment on DeFelice and other personnel moves. DeFelice did not respond to requests for comment.
The move by DeFelice means that there will be 11 vacancies on the field in 2014. We know of six of the new hires, and sources tell us there will be 12 new hires. It is not clear if the twelfth hire is replacing an outgoing official or if a veteran official is going to be designated a “swing” official. Swing officials are additional officials beyond the original 119 that rotate into various crews through the season. Referee Bill Vinovich was the league’s most recent swing official in 2012.
In the past three seasons, the NFL has hired only seven new officials. The 12 new officials represent the largest hiring spree since 2002, when 15 new officials were brought in.
Image: Gavin Smith/Detroit Lions.