Football Zebras™

Brad Allen named crew chief in 1st NFL season

First rookie-season R since 1966

On the heels of the surprise announcement that Mike Carey is retiring from the NFL, Football Zebras can confirm that rookie official Brad Allen will call his first NFL season at the referee position.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a rookie official has been hired as a pro football referee since the  the American Football League hired Jack Vest straight out of college in 1966 and the NFL hired Tommy Bell straight out of college in 1961.

Allen comes to the NFL from the Atlantic Coast Conference.  He worked in the ACC for eight seasons and was assigned to referee the 2012 Rose Bowl and the 2014 Sugar Bowl.  Allen will wear uniform number 122.  He will likely head the crew Carey was slated to have in 2014, which only had two members of Carey’s 2013 crew. The league office told Football Zebras that a new crew list will be finalized in the coming days.

A few weeks ago the NFL announced the new officiating hires for 2014.  Allen was hired as an umpire, a curious position to be assigned since he was a collegiate referee and he was part of the 2013 advanced training program as a back judge.  I opined then that the NFL might be using the umpire position as a place to train future NFL referees.  Well, the future is now, and Allen will do something not done in pro football in almost a half a century: call his first pro game from the referee position.

In the past, the NFL hired collegiate referees and assigned them to other positions.  Jerry Markbreit, Red Cashion, and Jerry Seeman were hired as line judges.  Gerald Austin was hired as a side judge.  Ed Hochuli was hired as a field judge (then called back judge).  All of these outstanding referees put in one to five years in the NFL at another position and had to excel at that position to be considered as a referee.

In this past offseason, I speculated that the NFL might have to hire a rookie white hat straight out of college due to the expected high retirement rate of NFL referees in the near future.  It will be interesting to see how Allen’s hire and immediate promotion will play out.  Will the NFL assign a group of veteran officials to Allen’s crew to help him learn the pro game and the pro rules?  How will the off-field crew dynamics play out with a group of veteran officials being lead by a rookie white hat?  Some things we will be able to witness, some off field things we will never know.

This is a fascinating move by Dean Blandino and his staff to hire Allen as a referee in his first season in the NFL.  I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Image: ACC Digital Network video