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Super Bowl referee down to 2 candidates


Now that the divisional playoff referee assignments have been determined by Football Zebras, we can now look to who the potential crew chief will be for the Super Bowl. The NFL assigns its Super Bowl officiating staff to a second-round game to break up the gap between the end of the regular season and the big game.

This season, Terry McAulay has a Divisional Playoff assignment, but he cannot qualify for back-to-back Super Bowls. Preference is given to an official who has not worked a Super Bowl among officials that are placed in the highest “tier” as evaluated by the head of officiating, Dean Blandino. Bill Leavy has worked two Super Bowls before, so that leaves us with two. We make the case for …

Gene Steratore

Gene Steratore is ready.   In the past several years Steratore’s skills have increased and he is currently in his prime as a NFL referee.   He is currently one of the “go to” referees, as demonstrated by the NFL placing him in charge of the 2013 NFC Conference Championship Game — a hyped-up affair between two hyped-up teams: the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

Steratore is one of the officials who exhibits supreme confidence during a game.   His penalty announcements and instant replay explanations are avuncular, but when he flips on the microphone, there is no doubt that he is in control of the game and he is sure of his ruling.

With several recent referee retirements, Steratore is now one of the veterans, and his time has come. He is ready for his Super Bowl, and I predict he’ll toss the coin February 1.

Mark Schultz

Bill Vinovich

A former official told me about the late Jerry Seeman, the director of officiating in the 1990s, and his selection process of the Super Bowl officials. “Jerry knew who he wanted to go to war with. You look at the grades, everything, but in the end: who do you trust when it’s all on the line?”

Jerry would pick Bill Vinovich, not only for his impeccable record, but also for his leadership and poise. He gutted through a bitter cold and challenging double-overtime classic between the Ravens and Broncos two seasons ago. This year, when the Ravens and Steelers faced off for their usually fierce tête-à-tête, it looked certain that Vinovich was going start handing out ejections. He didn’t. He stopped the game, and laid down the law firmly with both coaches. But, he also listened. He let the coaches vent their frustrations and took the proverbial kettle off the fire by doing so. That’s not in an officiating manual. That’s instinct.

Number 52 and his instincts will be on display in Glendale on the first of February.

Ben Austro

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Mark Schultz
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?"

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24 thoughts on “Super Bowl referee down to 2 candidates

  1. Is removing Leavy because he has worked a Super Bowl before speculation, or confirmed?

    Just last year McAuley was the only head ref in the Divisional Round with Super Bowl experience (at least as a referee) and he got it over Morelli, Blakeman and Cheffers.

  2. Vinovich “gutted through a bitter cold” Ravens/Broncos game, alright. He also screwed up every major (and some minor) calls in that game. It will go down as one of the worst officiated games in the history of the NFL. That’s the guy you’re endorsing to be a Super Bowl referee?

  3. Vinovich screwed up the Broncos/Ravens game so much that people wonder if the NFL is fixed or if he’s just dirty.

  4. Vinovich missed a lot of calls in the Baltimore v Denver divisional game if I remember correctly. He let Tucker practice kicking the field goal during intermission between the first and second overtime, called a late and questionable pass interference call on a third and one, and flagged Champ Bailey for another pass interference when he never touched the guy. Literally. I’m not so sure hes a good referee as you might suggest.

  5. Are you sure Vinovich made those questionable pass interference calls from his position in the offensive backfield? Or was it one of the SIX other officials on the field like maybe the back judge… side judge or field judge… who probably weren’t assigned a playoff game this year!
    For that matter do you even know what a back judge, field judge or side judge is supposed to do?

  6. I’ll jump on the Vinovich had a miserable ’12 Divisional Game bandwagon, but I can’t blame him for the DPI on Bailey, or the missed DPI (or IC) on the Ravens on the pick-6 in the 1st quarter.

    I will blame him for letting Tucker practice his kick (not a giant problem), and mostly for upholding the Manning strip-sack that looked like it should have been an incomplete pass (tuck rule, which I believe was still a rule that year).

  7. Go back and rewatch that Broncos-Ravens game. It was an absolute abortion from an officiating standpoint. From the comments of the live blog on this very site at the time:

    — “These officials made this game one of the worst viewable contests for any fan that knows the rules of football. This crew missed several pass interference calls that ended drives, made phantom holding calls on short yardage situations, the above mentioned face mask call and way too many more to count. This is the best the NFL has to offer? … Disappointing display of ineptitude.”

    — “Well we know who is making the Super Bowl with the help of the Officials. It’s going to be a Ravens/49ers rigged Super Bowl because they want high rating with Harbaugh Bowl. It’s disgusting that the NFL likes to fix stuff like this.”

    — “When is it ok for a kicker to practice a winning field goal on the field when the game is still going on? Why did the refs allow this? … Bill Vinovich should go back into retirement.”

    — “I have not seen a worse officiated game since Seattle was fleeced in the Super Bowl vs Pittsburgh.”

    — “This crew deserves the opportunity to look for new employment. That game looked less like a professional sport and more like a staged soap opera. WWE and Days of our Lives had an illegitimate love child and it’s name was Bill Vinovich.”

    — “I appreciate the fact that Vinovich worked his way back from illness but I didn’t see anything last night that made him better than some sitting at home.”

    — “I felt this was one of the WORST officiated games I have ever seen especially a playoff game. It almost looked like it was a conspiracy to have the Ravens win with at least three pass interference calls not made against Baltimore enabling them at least one undeserved touchdown and preventing a Bronco touchdown. Did referee Vinochich make $$$$ in Las Vegas bets? It’s worth investigating.”

  8. The following is from Aaron Rodgers from his weekly show this week on Gene Steratore, who is working the Packers game: “Gene is one of my favorites…he’s one of the best sports referees…there’s potential for him to be an NBA ref…he’s a talented ref.”

  9. Bill, that game is long gone, but me personally, I think he is a good ref, and his calls are good despite a few bad calls. Maybe you like Steratore better.

  10. Vinovich is third generation official and has composure and instinct. Steratore similarly so. Still, I’ll vote for Vinovich.

  11. I agree about Viniovich butchering games. He’s done so recently. I can see Steratore being the one of these two basketball refs working in Glendale…..he’s overall a better ref

  12. Just my opinion but Bill Leavy should be fired as a referee. He is the only ref that I can recall that consistently messes up calls. Seems to me that when you are the referee in games such as a super bowl, you might want a referee that doesn’t cause the NFL head of officiating to come out and say that the crew missed calls consistently.

  13. Huge Steratore fan (also, diehard Ravens fan). He is poised and he explains any interesting or subtle decisions clearly and improves my knowledge of the rules. Peter King’s series of articles on him shows these qualities even more so and also gets into the technical elements of reffing. He also was the head ref in the first game after the lockout (Browns-Ravens on Thursday night). He deserves to ref the Super Bowl.

  14. Why does doing the previous years’ game factor in? What happened to merit? If you’re good you’re good- at least as far as the NFL grades are concerned….

  15. Confident? No. The correct word is arrogant, as far as the Ichabod Crane lookalike, a fool tipping his hat to the crowd when he came back from what should have been a permanent retirement. Also, he can’t stand still when announcing a foul. As for the other guy? Just an unprofessional d bag. During training the summer of 2012, after an R had been “cut” from the program for screwing up in his first game (an interesting process, accountability – which is why the replacements, once the weeding out process started, were better than most (not all) of the annointed ones we see out there every week screwing up games worse than any replacement crew), when a second round of R’s were announced with their adjusted crews (adjusted after accountability cuts made) for Week 2 pre-season, the “cut” R, who did not yet know he was cut, was in the R’s meeting room and did not hear his name called to lead a crew and said, “Hey, you didn’t call my name” and this d bag who was assisting in the training of these officials shouted out “It sucks to be you.” Yes, a true professional. An arrogant d head, just like 90% of them, who think they can do no wrong, but are proven wrong every week on television.

  16. Not only did Vinovich assure that the Ravens won the 2012 playoff game in Denver, he has a record of 0-4 when reffing Denver games in the past 3 years with Manning as QB. In the Seattle game this year ‘someone’ convinced the official who threw an offsides flag to pick it up on a 3rd and 1 – as the TV announcer said – he wasn’t just offsides – he was in the Denver backfield. Broncos need to punt. Manning is tackled around the head – and no flag (that is on Vinovich). Welker is taken out – and no flag for a defenseless receiver.

    And then the Cinncinati game. On the 85 yard TD clear holding by the right side of Bengal’s line (on Vinovich) which breaks the runner out, and then clear block in the back further down the field not called. Simultaneous catch with Julius Thomas is given to the Bengals – and then upheld on review (Vinovich) when the rules state the ball goes to the offense. Then, after it appears they are “allowing the teams to play” they decide to get picky in the second half and all the major calls go against the Broncos. Including a face mask penalty on Demarious Thomas (when was the last time you saw a face mask penalty on a receiver?) but totally ignored the clear holding by the defense on Thomas. At the very least it was off setting.

    Articles have been written about Vinovich and the Broncos. A “Fire Vinovich” petition was started. How could this guy get a Super Bowl assignment????

  17. The best of the best is supposed to get a Super Bowl assignment. If he is the best the NFL has – then the entire league is screwed.

  18. Leavey should not get another Super Bowl. We saw what he did in 2008. Add to the fact that he’s bern awful all year, I’m stunned he even has a divisional game.

  19. This is just my opinion and maybe I am wrong, but I always thought Ed Hochuli didn’t get a divisional round game and SB. I know he had an incident last year, but over he is a good referee. My vote for this year would be Gene. I cant think of any other referees that stand out. Walt Anderson is another one maybe he got a championship series games. Another horrible one is Jeff Triplet. Another good one I think is Tony Corrente. John Parry is another decent referee. It will be interesting to see who gets the conference championship games.

  20. Leavy screwed Seattle in superbowl 40 with multiple bad calls screwed up pretty bad in the Sea vs KC game has been just bad overall i don’t know how he’s getting playoff games either.

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