Now that the divisional playoff referee assignments have been determined by Football Zebras, we can now look to who the potential crew chief will be for the Super Bowl. The NFL assigns its Super Bowl officiating staff to a second-round game to break up the gap between the end of the regular season and the big game.
This season, Terry McAulay has a Divisional Playoff assignment, but he cannot qualify for back-to-back Super Bowls. Preference is given to an official who has not worked a Super Bowl among officials that are placed in the highest “tier” as evaluated by the head of officiating, Dean Blandino. Bill Leavy has worked two Super Bowls before, so that leaves us with two. We make the case for …
Gene Steratore is ready. In the past several years Steratore’s skills have increased and he is currently in his prime as a NFL referee. He is currently one of the “go to” referees, as demonstrated by the NFL placing him in charge of the 2013 NFC Conference Championship Game — a hyped-up affair between two hyped-up teams: the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
Steratore is one of the officials who exhibits supreme confidence during a game. His penalty announcements and instant replay explanations are avuncular, but when he flips on the microphone, there is no doubt that he is in control of the game and he is sure of his ruling.
With several recent referee retirements, Steratore is now one of the veterans, and his time has come. He is ready for his Super Bowl, and I predict he’ll toss the coin February 1.
— Mark Schultz
A former official told me about the late Jerry Seeman, the director of officiating in the 1990s, and his selection process of the Super Bowl officials. “Jerry knew who he wanted to go to war with. You look at the grades, everything, but in the end: who do you trust when it’s all on the line?”
Jerry would pick Bill Vinovich, not only for his impeccable record, but also for his leadership and poise. He gutted through a bitter cold and challenging double-overtime classic between the Ravens and Broncos two seasons ago. This year, when the Ravens and Steelers faced off for their usually fierce tête-à-tête, it looked certain that Vinovich was going start handing out ejections. He didn’t. He stopped the game, and laid down the law firmly with both coaches. But, he also listened. He let the coaches vent their frustrations and took the proverbial kettle off the fire by doing so. That’s not in an officiating manual. That’s instinct.
Number 52 and his instincts will be on display in Glendale on the first of February.
— Ben Austro