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5 observations from conference championship weekend



schuster ez conf champ

It was a great weekend of football, and the conference championship officiating crews did well by their respective games.

1. Umpire Bill Schuster had the game of his life

Number 129 was everywhere Sunday night.  He jumped in between potential combatants, dug to the bottom of fumble scrums, hustled to get the ball back in play, and knew when to be a diplomat and when to bark at players to maintain order.  If you officiate and are an umpire, watch the game by Schuster — that’s how you work the umpire position.

2. NFL will likely make fumble recoveries reviewable in the offseason

NaVorro Bowman forced a fumble in the field of play and suffered a gruesome injury in the process (article here with photo that is not for the squeamish).  As everyone piled on top of Bowman and his badly injured knee, the ball changed hands back into the Seahawks’ hands.  Replays clearly showed Bowman in possession of the ball and down by contact; however by rule, who recovers a fumble is not reviewable.  The NFL will most likely revise replay to make fumble recoveries reviewable especially for plays like the Bowman play.  Fortunately for today, the issue was moot as the Seahawks fumbled the ball to the 49ers on the next play.

3. Illegal picks not only in basketball

We all got an education in illegal picks in the AFC Conference Championship game.  The officials called the Patriots for offensive pass interference when their tight end, Michael Hoomanawanui, blocked his defender into another, freeing up another Patriots receiver for a long gainer.  Patriot fans were also calling for the same call on a few Broncos’ plays as well.  Let’s see if this call will be a point of emphasis next season, now that it was put in the spotlight this weekend.

4. The crazier it gets, the calmer the officials

Not once this weekend, did officials lose control of their emotions.  Sure we may have witnessed an official or two bark at two players about to square off, but the crazier it got, the louder the coaches (one in particular) yelled, the calmer the officials were.  The officials were the only ones this weekend paid to keep their cool, and they earned their money well.

5. Alternates are vital in the playoffs

Alternate officials don’t get paid just to watch the game in the playoffs.  When the TV showed the coaches on the sidelines during a close or controversial call this weekend (and in the entire playoffs) the alternates were close by, many times acting as a liaison for the crew.  The alternate also was in communication with the NFL observer and replay official to let them know what was going on down on the field.  While not as prestigious as a onfield assignment, the alternates play a vital role on the game.

All in all, it was a great weekend for the Corrente and Steratore crews.  The teams decided the outcome of the games.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"