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SJ Rob Vernatchi suspended 1 game for missing clock error

The NFL took the rare step of suspending an official for an error in game mechanics, a source has told Pro Football Talk and a separate source has confirmed with Football Zebras. (PFT reports the suspension is with pay; we have not verified that aspect.)

Following a kickoff in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter on Monday night, the game clock rolled off 18 seconds before stopping between downs. Among Vernatchi’s duties as side judge is to monitor the game clock. Even though Vernatchi did not see the running clock, as the ball was being made ready for play and substitutions were being monitored, he should have noticed the discrepancy. Since the kickoff was a touchback, the time on the clock should have been the same as it was for the kickoff.

As reported on Tuesday, the league stated it was evaluating the officiating crew and the game-clock operator as part of the usual midweek review of all games. The loss of game time is particularly mentioned in the officiating duties as an egregious error.

Officials are graded on the accuracy of their calls through the year, which are used for determining playoff assignments. Disciplinary measures against officials beyond grades do not occur frequently. However, omissions in standard mechanics or misapplication of rules (as opposed to judgement calls) have been subject to fines ranging from half to an entire game check, especially if it has a profound effect on the game. Football Zebras is aware of seven incidents of officials being suspended for game-day incidents with two of those suspensions involving non-football-related issues.

Vice-president of officiating Dean Blandino has clearly put his staff on notice for errors in officiating. Regardless of whether the league should or should not suspend officials for mechanics, this is an unprecedented elevation of consequences for the staff of 122 officials, and it will be interesting to see how this squares with the officials’ collective bargaining agreement with the league.

Football Zebras is seeking comment from a league spokesman and from the officials’ union. Vernatchi is prohibited from talking to the media by the terms of the CBA.

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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8 thoughts on “SJ Rob Vernatchi suspended 1 game for missing clock error

  1. RefGuy2222 – Your lack of solidarity or empathy leads me to believe you’re not an official at all – just a selfish arsehole.

    BTW it’s cost not costed and won not one.
    Maybe you should have “axed” someone to check your spelling.

  2. RefGuy2222: If you’re betting or participating in football pools, you have zero integrity. And shouldn’t be officiating football period. God help the teams that get a corrupt official as yourself for a game. Enjoy officiating youth football this Saturday….

  3. There was time lost after the replay reversal of the Dez Bryant catch last season, too. Gene Steratore as the referee, the replay official, the replay assistant and the whole crew in New York, including Dean Blandino, forgot to reset the game clock. I do not see why this error did not lead to a suspension, and the one from last week does.

  4. I umpired little league baseball for two years. Eventually, I couldn’t take the pressure and gave it up. That’s why I have tremendous respect for officials in all sports. It’s an incredibly difficult job. People should embrace the HUMAN ELEMENT. I’m willing to bet that most people who read this comment have forgotten a basic job duty at some point. I know I have. Never been suspended. Don’t agree with this. I guess it’s just a product of society’s demanding nature.

  5. The clock operator should be fired. His only duty is to run the clock and he screwed that up badly. Not to mention the guy is an on-field official in the Pac-12…he clearly wasn’t paying attention.

  6. Tony and D1 Official, I am not an official. I am just an officiating fan. My dream is to become an NFL official like 30 years down the road. I love refs. That’s why I use this name. I hate improper officiating when I could have won money in a pool. Just so you know.

  7. He must have been a replacement SJ…wait, the replacements SAVED his job. Now if Dean can keep up the good work and suspend guys WITHOUT pay for egregious errors of rules, and ESPECIALLY the poor mechanics we ALL see on a weekly basis. How did some of those guys pass the physical back in July?

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