By examining the officiating rosters for the wild card and divisional playoffs, we have some reasonable certainty of the crews that will work the conference championship games. (More on the process is in an earlier post.)
Officials who are selected for the conference title games are the second- and third-best rated at their positions. If their crew worked the wild card or divisional playoffs, those officials were substituted with the highest ranked official at their position who was not assigned to another game. However, officials with less than five years experience in the NFL, as well as those who have never worked a postseason game, cannot qualify for the conference championship. (Officials are also substituted from wild card and divisional playoff assignments if they do not individually score well enough.)
While officials for the conference championships do not work in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Super Bowl officials generally do, but a Super Bowl official will not work a conference championship.
Terry McAulay and Ed Hochuli were not assigned to the first two rounds of the playoffs, but their crews were. It would be incredibly unlikely in the cases of McAulay and Hochuli if they were substituted out of the early round games because of poor grades.
The following officials for the remaining positions were substituted on their crews and are eligible to work a conference championship game, listed with their regular-season crew chief (* indicates that his crew worked the wild card playoffs, † for the divisional playoffs):
- HL — George Hayward (Pete Morelli*)
- HL — Mark Hittner (Hochuli†)
- LJ — Tom Symonette (Hochuli†)
- LJ — Mark Pearlman (Bill Leavy†)
- FJ — Bob Waggoner (Gene Steratore*)
- FJ — Steve Zimmer (Alberto Riverón†)
- SJ — Laird Hayes (Mike Carey*)
- BJ — Dino Paganelli (Steratore*)
Of this list, Paganelli is in his first year of eligibilty for the conference championships, as this is his fifth season.
Missing from this list, notably, are two at the umpire position. This likely means that the championship umpires came from crews that were not ranked in the top 8. If we exclude the umpires assigned already, either on-field or as an alternate, there are only five eligible for the conference championship games. One of those five, Undrey Wash, served in last year’s Super Bowl, and may be a conference championship candidate since officials do not work consecutive Super Bowls.
The list is also incomplete at both the line judge and side judge positions, with one missing for both.