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Six Super Bowl XLIX officiating observations

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The Super Bowl XLIX officiating crew is back at home and recovering from a frenzied season that was capped off with a frenzied Super Bowl.   While some may disagree with a call here and there, the biggest controversy is the Seahawks’ play calling at the end of the game and not a call made by the zebras.

Here is what jumped out at me in regards to the officiating.

1.   The officials were not afraid to eject.   In the past 10 years, there have been some Super Bowl scrums that I thought deserved an ejection.   Well, Super Bowl XLIX featured the first ever ejection in the big game after a fight broke out after a Tom Brady kneel-down (video) leading to the Seahawks’ Bruce Irvin being ejected.   I think side judge Tom Hill was the official that threw Irvin out of the game.   It would have had more impact had it happened in the middle of the second quarter, but give the crew credit for doing the right thing and dishing out a consequence.

2.   Calls in the secondary evened out.   The deep officials, Bob Waggoner, Tom Hill and Terrence Miles let both teams get a little hands-y on offense and defense, but they let both sides play.   There was some mild complaining by both teams during the game but nothing egregious.   Teams want consistency and they got it in the secondary.

3.   Bill Schuster is now a model umpire in the NFL.   Over the years, the NFL has seen great umpires show hustle and presence on the field:   Lou Palazzi, Pat Harder, Art Demmas, Ron Botchan, Garth DeFelice.   Now, Bill Schuster (along with Carl Paganelli) are the umpires all amateur officials should emulate.   In Super Bowl XLIX, Schuster showed hustle, presence and sound judgement.   Well done, number 129.

4.   It should have been roughing the kicker.   Bill Vinovich should have called roughing the kicker instead of running into the kicker on the first Patriots punt in the first quarter.   The defender hit the punter’s plant leg.   While not an egregious hit the rule states that if the hit is on the plant leg, it is roughing the kicker.   Does this call allow for judgement on the referee’s part?  It is speculation on my part, but Vinovich must not have thought the hit egregious enough to warrant a personal foul (Mike Carey thought so and tweeted as such).     Nevertheless, by rule it should have been 15-yards and an automatic first down for the Patriots.

5.   Tom Hill showed great concentration on the Jermaine Kearse catch (video).   Great plays make for great calls.   Kearse had to concentrate to keep the ball alive and Hill had to concentrate for the entire play.   Any anticipation could have made for an inadvertent whistle or a blown call.   Hill stayed with the play and got it right (see photo above).

6. No replays!   Not one coach’s challenge or booth challenge.   Vinovich didn’t have to go under the hood.   There were some close calls during the evening, but nothing to warrant a second look.

The 2014 NFL season is now in the record books and culminated with a dramatic Super Bowl.   The officiating crew can be proud of their efforts.

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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