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Officials await ‘official’ playoff assignments



As Week 17 evaluations of the officials are scheduled to be completed Tuesday, playoff assignments will be determined. (Even though our sources say the assignments are already determined, the league disputes that.)

Playoffs_10_rgbThe NFL has told us that referee Bill Vinovich, who is in his first season back to the field after a multiple-season medical leave, is eligible for a postseason assignment. Vinovich has worked as a roving substitute this season.

For this postseason, crews are not assigned based on the performance of the entire crew; each official must individually qualify for his playoff assignment. This was an item in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the referees union last September.

Officials are ranked based on accuracy of calls and scores in written rules tests. Subjective criteria weight the rankings, such as professionalism, decisiveness, pace of the game, and fitness. The highest ranked officials at each position are placed in the Super Bowl, the next highest will go to the Conference Championship games, continuing down through the Divisional Playoffs and the Wild Card Playoffs. The rankings are also affected by the following criteria:

  • Officials in their first year or in their first year as referee do not get ranked and do not get a playoff assignment. (This does not apply this season.)
  • To qualify for the Conference Championship, an official must have worked a playoff game in a prior season.
  • To qualify for the Super Bowl, officials, other than the referee, must have:
    • five years’ experience
    • either: (1) worked a conference championship game, or (2) worked postseason games in three of the last five years.
  • The referee of the Super Bowl must have:
    • five years’ experience
    • worked a conference Championship in any position
    • three years’ experience as a referee
    • officiated a playoff game as a referee

Common practice has prevented officials from getting assignments to the Super Bowl in consecutive years.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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