From the highlights to the lowlights, the past decade has been full of news, advancements, and controversies in the world of NFL officiating. We live in a very different world we lived in just ten years ago. Without further ado, from the game-changing calls to the broken glass-ceilings, and from the controversial moments to the career achievements, Football Zebras presents this three-part series showcasing the top officiating moments of the 2010s.
Gary Arthur with the scariest injury (2015)
The veteran line judge took a spill in Week 1 of the 2015 season (video). He left the field and it turns out that he suffered injuries that an Indy 500 driver might face after hitting the wall.
Arthur had a broken collar bone, nine broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung. The most serious injuries are usually torn ligaments – not serious injuries to vital organs.
After nine weeks of recovery and rehab, Arthur returned to the field. We were all relieved to see number 108 take the field and return in subsequent years.
Jeff Seeman with the call of the decade in Super Bowl LI (2016 season)
Great plays make for great calls and no call in the decade was greater than Jeff Seeman’s call of the juggling catch by Patriots receiver Julian Edelman in Super Bowl LI.
Somehow, Seeman was able to stay with the call and rule that Edelman’s juggle mere inches off the turf never touched the ground and it was a catch. For the record, down judge Kent Payne also came in and affirmed the catch, that was confirmed on replay.
It was an amazing catch and just as an amazing call to make in real time.
Replacement officials during labor dispute (2012)
You didn’t think we’d forget that, did you? In 2012, the NFL, decided that replacement officials could call games just as well as members of the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA), the officials union. Spearheaded by then NFL vice president Ray Anderson, the NFL engaged in a toxic, weeks-long lockout of the NFL officials and hired replacements to call preseason and regular season games.
Major college officials refused to work NFL games, so the NFL had to turn to Division III officials, and recently retired college officials, even the Lingerie Football League.
While the preseason games went off without too much trouble, when it came to the regular season, the replacement officials didn’t have the experience necessary to call the game.
It all ended in the disastrous “Fail Mary” play in Seattle, where there was a jump ball, simultaneous possession, and two different signals by the officials. After a long delay and more indecision, the officials ruled a touchdown for the Seahawks and instant replay upheld the touchdown. After that Monday Night debacle, the NFL quickly came to an agreement with the NFLRA and the regulars came back.
Thankfully, the next time, the NFL and NFLRA negotiated a new contract at the close of the decade without any work action, and there will be continued labor peace for the next five years.
Sarah Thomas hired (2015)
Sarah Thomas broke the “grass ceiling” in 2015, becoming the first woman hired full-time as a NFL official.
Thomas came to the NFL from Conference USA in college, where former NFL official, Gerald Austin, recommended her highly.
While the publicity surrounding her status as the first female NFL official caused some raised eyebrows in some circles, Thomas has proven she belongs, having been assigned a playoff game in 2018. She also proved her toughness by recovering from a broken wrist after getting knocked down in 2017.
The hiring of Thomas also brought about a terminology change. When Thomas moved from the line judge position to the opposite sideline, the NFL renamed the head linesman position as down judge, reflecting the primary down box and the chains. The college level also changed their terms, but the H was retained on the uniforms for head line judge.
There are other female officials in the pipeline, so look for others to join Thomas, maybe even as soon as next year.
Officials retire to the TV booth (2010, 2014, 2018, 2019)
We can’t have a game without them anymore, but, for a time there was only one game in town. Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira broke new ground by becoming the first NFL officiating and rules analyst for Fox Sports.
In 2017, Dean Blandino left his job as NFL senior vice president of officiating to join Pereira on Fox.
Competing networks quickly discovered the need to have the same presence on their broadcasts. CBS lured Mike Carey off the field, but he was gone after two seasons. Gerald Austin worked for ESPN on Monday Night Football, followed by Jeff Triplette for one year. This year, ESPN hired John Parry off the field and he has seamlessly work into the announcing crew. In 2018, CBS lured Gene Steratore off the field to be its NFL and college basketball rules analyst.
Many college and pro sports leagues now have officiating and rules experts to add flavor to the game and Mike Pereira and Fox got it all started nine years ago.