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6 officiating keys to watch this season

It is time. No more practice. No more clinics. The NFL season begins for real this week. Here is what I’m keying on as I zebra-watch this fall and winter.

  1. Sarah Thomas breaks the gender barrier. Ms. Thomas probably doesn’t want it to be a big deal, but it is. She will be the first permanent female NFL official in league history. She has many years of experience and has spent two years in the advanced training program. One officiating source who said he was initially felt Thomas was not quite ready for the pro level, told us that she did very well on Pete Morelli’s crew in preseason. Here’s hoping she has an uneventful, yet successful, regular season.
  2. John Hussey is a new referee. How will Hussey do this season as a white hat? The former line judge first joined the league in 2002, and is a Super Bowl veteran — so the experience and qualifications are there.
  3. How will extra point rules impact the game? This year, extra point kicks will be from the 15-yard line, eliminating the “chip shot” extra point and making the kick a little more difficult. The two-point conversion will still be from the 2-yard line. Also, if the defense recovers the ball during the PAT, they can run it back to the end zone for two points. I opined that there was no reason to change the extra-point rules. We’ll see how the rules shake out this season.
  4. Which sophomore officials will take the next step? Rookie officials are not eligible to officiate playoffs. Let’s see how many of the 13 sophomore officials will get a playoff assignment this year.
  5. Will Deflategate — I hate that term! We’ve been tacking “gate” on every scandal since 1974, but I digress. Will Deflategate be a factor this year? The long offseason was even longer due to the controversy over whether the New England Patriots cheated by deflating air pressure on the game balls. In light of the accusations and investigation, the NFL adopted new game ball procedures for the 2015 season. I predict that the biggest offseason controversy will be a non-factor this fall.
  6. Who will work the golden anniversary Super Bowl? I rarely get any of these right, but for Super Bowl 50, my crew prediction is:
  • Referee Gene Steratore (114)
  • Umpire: Dan Ferrell (64)
  • Head Linesman: Tony Veteri, Jr. (36)
  • Linesman: Jeff Bergman (32)
  • Field Judge: Doug Rosenbaum (67)
  • Side Judge: Jon Lucivansky (89)
  • Back Judge: Dino Paganelli (105)
  • Alternate Referee: Pete Morelli (135)
  • Alternate Umpire: Paul King (121)
  • Alternate HL/LJ: Jerry Bergman, Jr. (91)
  • Alternate FJ/SJ: Jeff Lamberth (21)
  • Alternate Back Judge: Lee Dyer (27)

Best wishes to the entire NFL officiating staff this year. May you have the safest, most accurate season yet!

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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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5 thoughts on “6 officiating keys to watch this season

  1. Sarah Thomas ISN’T breaking the gender barrier. She’s the first union-authorized female NFL official. The first female official at an NFL game was Shannon Eastin, who worked during the lockout in 2012. I don’t think Thomas will come up much, because the people to bring it would have been either the union or the NFL, both of whom want to gloss over the lockout.

    The biggest officiating story of this season may well be of the OTHER example of the Patriots cheating during the playoffs. The NFL clarified the rule on eligible/ineligible substitutions in the off-season because the game officials in the AFC divisional game got it wrong. I think we’ll see more examples of the officials waiting for defensive substitutions before giving the ready for play signal. Somebody will get burned for the official following what has always been the rule.

  2. I think a follow-up to question 4 is how Ron Torbert and Craig Wrolstad do in their sophomore years as white hats & whether they (along with Brad Allen) get playoff assignments instead of some of the established names.

  3. Sarah Thomas, blah-blah…she is a nice person, but so many others deserve to be there over her (including SEVERAL replacements who proved their abilities nobly under HUGE pressures Sarah will never face in the PC world we now inhabit).

  4. Power rankings for all 17 refs:
    # First Last Years
    1. Ed Hochuli 26
    2. Walt Coleman 27
    3. Terry McAulay 18
    4. Walt Anderson 20
    5. Tony Corrente 21
    6. Carl Cheffers 16
    7. Jeff Triplette 20
    8. Pete Morelli 19
    9. Craig Wrolstad 13
    10. John Hussey 14
    11. John Parry 16
    12. Brad Allen 2
    13. Ron Torbert 6
    14. Gene Steratore 13
    15. Jerome Boger 12
    16. Clete Blakeman 8
    17. Bill Vinovich 10

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