Commentary by Mark Schultz
Here are the things I am pondering as I “zebra watch” this year.
1. Will some high-profile officials make a playoff comeback? Gene Steratore, Ed Hochuli, John Parry, Tom Stabile, John McGrath, Rob Vernatchi, and Walt Anderson missed out on an on-field playoff assignment in 2012. Will they make a playoff comeback in 2013?
2. Some officials are entering the twilight of their careers and have yet make it to the Super Bowl. Will this be the year Ron Winter, Walt Coleman, Mark Baltz, Butch Hannah, or Scott Dawson work the last game of the season?
3. Will the NFL crack down on fouls against officials? Last year Dana McKenzie ejected Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall for excessive arguing and acting aggressively against him. The rules state that:
Under no circumstances should an official allow a player to shove, push or strike him in an offensive, disrespectful or unsportsmanlike manner.
I editorialized that the NFL must do more to punish players who touch officials in violation of the above rule. I hope the NFL severely punishes any player who might be ejected for personal fouls against officials this year.
4. How will the NFL’s new rule prohibiting ball carriers from lowering their head in the open field and delivering a blow with the crown of their helmet impact games this year? This will be the most controversial rule change this season. I predict that we’ll see several flags for this foul in the first three weeks and then the players will adapt to the rule.
5. How will Dean Blandino run the officiating department? Mike Pereira revolutionized the role of officiating boss. This is Blandino’s first year in the post of vice president of officiating. He succeeds Carl Johnson after he held the post for three years and decided to return to the field as a line judge this year and as the first full-time official. How will Blandino leave his stamp on the office? Only time will tell.
6. Who will officiate the Super Bowl? I’ve tried to predict the seven-person crew for 10-years. Of the 70 slots I’ve guessed, I’ve gotten maybe a maximum of five right. But I am not afraid to put my predictions out there and see just how wrong I am. So, I predict the Super Bowl XLVIII crew will be:
- Referee — Pete Morelli
- Umpire — Roy Ellison
- Head Linesman — Derick Bowers
- Line Judge — Carl Johnson
- Field Judge — Greg Gautreaux
- Side Judge — Rob Vernatchi
- Back Judge — Perry Paganelli
- Alternate — Gene Steratore
- Alternate — Mark Hittner
- Alternate — Jon Lucivansky
- Alternate — Don Carey
To quote former referee Red Cashion after every coin toss he conducted, “Gentlemen, let’s play football!”
Image: Jimmy Cribbs/Atlanta Falcons