Football Zebras commentary
Our annual tradition is to predict which referees are assigned to the postseason and the Pro Bowl. As we find every year, there tends to be a razor-thin line at the playoff cut, so an omission on this list does not necessarily mean we thought the referee was not worthy of a playoff assignment. We simply ran out of room.
Once again, there are many deserving referees this year, and someone will stay off the field that will surprise us.
For the Wild Card, I have John Hussey. It’s his first year of eligibility after working several years at line judge. He has worked hard and will be rewarded with an assignment. Brad Allen was an alternate last year in his first year eligible; he’ll get an on field assignment this year. Walt Coleman has been on the playoffs bubble for several years; that bubble won’t burst this year. And finally, Carl Cheffers is another strong veteran who has had a good season.
In the Divisional round (remember Super Bowl officials normally work a Divisional round game), I have Craig Wrolstad, who I feel will work a Super Bowl as a white hat some day. Ron Torbert is a fast-rising white hat who is closing down on a conference championship assignment. Also, Tony Corrente had a great season and will be rewarded with a playoff game.
The Conference Championship white hats, I think, are John Parry and Ed Hochuli, with Gene Steratore getting Super Bowl LI. Steratore is a solid veteran and had a very good year.
Also, I’m predicting the “all-star” crews to be as follows:
- AFC Championship Game: R John Parry, U Paul King, HL Jerry Bergman, LJ Jeff Seeman, FJ Mike Weatherford, SJ Allen Baynes, BJ Perry Paganelli.
- NFC Championship Game: R Ed Hochuli, U Undrey Wash, HL Mark Hittner, LJ Tom Symonette, FJ James Coleman, SJ Bob Waggoner, BJ Dino Paganelli.
- Super Bowl LI: R Gene Steratore, U Tony Michalek, HL Kent Payne, LJ Gary Arthur, FJ Doug Rosenbaum, SJ Boris Cheek, BJ Steve Freeman, Alternate referee Terry McAulay, Alternate umpire Roy Ellison, Alternate short wing Byron Boston, Alternate deep wing Steve Zimmer, Alternate back judge Todd Prukop.
There is a crowd at the cut line, as usual. I think Ed Hochuli and Gene Steratore had good years, but some of my observations had them off of their usually lofty marks — which is still a high bar. I think Ron Torbert and Carl Cheffers are going to fill out the Wild Card round, but they might move up to a Divisional. Brad Allen is just on the cusp, but I think he probably gets an alternate assignment this time around.
In the Divisional round, Terry McAulay, John Parry, and Clete Blakeman all performed well, and I feel are all in the top tier. This, again is tight, and I have Craig Wrolstad making his white-hat debut in the Conference Championship just four years removed from his Super Bowl apperance as a field judge. I have Bill Vinovich repeating as a Championship referee, making it an effective three-peat after taking the helm in the Super Bowl two years ago.
This leaves me with one clear choice for Super Bowl referee: Walt Coleman. Coleman has had a great year, and even if he isn’t the highest graded official, he has an ace in the hole. Coleman is the most senior referee on the staff, yet has yet to work on the field for the Big Game. With some exceptions, an official in the top tier who has never worked a Super Bowl is usually moved up to the Super Bowl slot. For the most part, these are grades that are separated by decimal points, and this is a way to fairly break a virtual tie.
|Ben Austro||Mark Schultz|
|Super Bowl||Walt Coleman||Gene Steratore|
|Conference Championship||Bill Vinovich||Ed Hochuli|
|Craig Wrolstad||John Parry|
|Divisional Playoffs||Clete Blakeman||Tony Corrente|
|Walt Coleman||Gene Steratore|
|Terry McAulay||Ron Torbert|
|John Parry||Craig Wrolstad|
|Wild Card Playoffs||Carl Cheffers||Brad Allen|
|Ed Hochuli||Carl Cheffers|
|Gene Steratore||Walt Coleman|
|Ron Torbert||John Hussey|
|Pro Bowl||Jeff Triplette||Jeff Triplette|
We will score the predictions as follows: 5 points for a correctly slotted referee, 3 points for selections off by a round, 2 for two rounds, 1 for three rounds, and 1 point each for a Pro Bowl guess who works the playoffs and a playoff guess who works the Pro Bowl.
Image: Miami Dolphins photo