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Jim Quirk retains post as head of referees’ union [updated]

Update, 4/11: The union meetings have concluded, and Jim Quirk remains as the executive director. The matter of replacing Quirk did not come to a vote at the meetings that were “sparsely attended,” according to one union member. Football Zebras has not been in contact with all of the sources from the original story as yet, but it is apparent that they may have overstated their case. In any event, there is a constituency of an unknown size that has not been happy with the direction of the union; it is not clear if that was discussed or if there are any changes with the way the union does business in the future.

Update, 4/9: Pro Football Talk is reporting that the union released a statement, which was not received by Football Zebras. We stand behind the story as presented, which is based on information from current and former officials (who still retain alumni status in the union). We did not contact the union for comment for this story, as the last e-mail reply we have received from the union was September 2013, despite numerous requests in the past. We are apparently not the only outlet that has had this issue.

The statement, as reported by PFT:

“Jim Quirk continues to be the Executive Director of the NFLRA and such irresponsible reporting is both wrong and mean spirited,” NFL Referees Association spokesperson and legal counsel Mike Arnold said in a press release. “No one in the leadership of the NFLRA was contacted concerning this matter, and had any responsible journalist done so before reporting it, this erroneous report could have been avoided.”

Semantically, Quirk can still be the executive director, until a successor is named. The information presented in the report still retains accuracy. As for being mean-spirited, Football Zebras is reflecting the opinions presented by our sources; while we cannot speak for their motives, our reporting reflects the information we received and observable facts. We continue to respect and admire the contributions Quirk has made to the game and the officiating community.

The original post appears below.

Former NFL umpire and line judge Jim Quirk is leaving his post as the executive director of the National Football League Referees’ Association after three seasons, according to multiple officiating sources. The union is holding their annual meeting this month  and will elect a successor. Quirk apparently submitted his resignation in advance of the meeting.

The executive director position has been a permanent appointment by the union membership, but a proposed change to the bylaws would set a term length. Quirk also was to face a retention vote at the union meeting, according to one of the sources. In addition to the executive director, the union’s management consists of a board of directors — including four officer positions, headed by  referee Jeff Triplette as the union president — which are currently all active officials; the executive director has been  an NFL officiating alumnus, as it is a full-time position. The board positions are unpaid, but the executive director is paid $145,000 annually, according to nonprofit tax filings by the NFLRA.

Quirk, a 20-year NFL veteran, was known as a bulldog on the field, and, no doubt it was a reputation that secured his appointment in 2013 after the retirement of Tim Millis. Quirk’s appointment came the year after the officials were locked out by the NFL during collective bargaining. The replay officials’ contract was negotiated the next season under Quirk, but the replay officials worked under the parameters of the expired contract until a deal was reached.

In addition, Quirk has recently scuttled attempts by the NFL to make a limited number of officials full-time hires. Because the plan involves moving those officials to league-office positions, the full-time officials would not be covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Quirk argued that it removes critical protections for the officials, since the union could not represent those officials in contract negotiations or in disciplinary matters. Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly laid the blame for the failed proposal at the feet of the union.

Despite the brassy  presence he’s known for, officiating sources are saying that Quirk does not have the hard edge they expected from him. The consensus is that Quirk has taken a more measured approach in his position because his son, Jim Quirk Jr., is currently a back judge in the NFL. “And that’s a clear conflict of interest, because he is putting one official before all of the rest,” said one source.

The senior Quirk also took a curious stance against the crew that worked the Panthers-Giants game this season, widely publicized for the post-play skirmishes by Odell Beckham Jr., Josh Norman, and Cortland Finnegan. None of the combatants were ejected by Terry McAulay’s crew, and Quirk made a rare public comment to criticize the crew in an interview with USA Today:

I don’t want to second-guess the guys that worked the game, but I thought they should have been a lot more judicious in their attempts to get this thing under control. I don’t know why they did what they did, but I wish it had been handled different.

McAulay quit the NFLRA (although he must  still pay dues) because of Quirk’s statement, an indication of further eroding support for the executive director.

The sources told us they  were not aware of any  potential candidates for the vacancy.

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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 “Jim Quirk retains post as head of referees’ union [updated]

  1. Before posting such a story YOU really should have confirmation on the facts. This is pure speculation until the Union makes an announcement. Why would you do such a thing and put someone who has served the Union and the game of football for many years with class and dignity? You keep referring to ‘sources’, Why haven’t you named those sources? Is it the disgruntled, ex-union member who was second-guess in the above article? Or someone who has a habit of publically criticizing official for fame and fortune like the ex-NFL grader who works for ESPN and who was on Sports Center and was VERY critical of the officials in the Panther/Giant game. Rumors aren’t always correct and if this turns out to be JUST a rumor, I hope you have the decency to comeback and retract your statement.

  2. Ben,

    Looks like your SOURCES were WRONG! Time for a retraction. Next time tell your buddies to get the story straight before starting vicious rumors

    For Immediate Release April 8, 2016

    NFLRA Executive Director Jim Quirk Will Continue in His Role
    Association says irresponsible reporting is wrong and mean spirited

    The National Football League Referees Association (NFLRA) today confirmed that Executive
    Director Jim Quirk will continue in his current role contrary to media reports from Ben Austro of and Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.

    “Jim Quirk continues to be the Executive Director of the NFLRA and such irresponsible reporting
    is both wrong and mean spirited. No one in the leadership of the NFLRA was contacted
    concerning this matter, and had any responsible journalist done so before reporting it, this
    erroneous report could have been avoided,” said Mike Arnold, the union’s legal counsel and

    Arnold continued, “It is most unfortunate that unconfirmed reports are printed as facts and
    impugn the reputation of an outstanding person and former game official.”


  3. I don’t see how anyone can argue with the statement by Quirk about the Panthers/Giants game. The game was out of control! The covering officials did nothing to stop the non-football and dangerous action.

    And “Mr.Bottlegate” McAulay, as the referee, is partly to blame. He had to know what was going on. He failed to take control which is part of the referee’s job and the game became a fiasco. If he wasn’t ‘dinged’ for his performance, he should have been.

  4. McAulay and the crew, I am sure, realize there were some missed opportunities in that game. The issue was that the union chief, who rarely comments on anything (including an unprecedented suspension of an official), would suddenly do so in a case where he isn’t supporting the officials. Quirk’s comments were indisputably correct, but the question is why did he have to comment on it in the first place.

  5. A Homer; your comments are right on target. As the crew chief McAulay has to take the hit for not properly preparing his crew to work a tough game, where there was evidence right from the get go problems were going to occur. The question that is on my mind why wasn’t he and or members of his crew sat down for their poor efforts? NFL sat down an official who responsibility was to watch the clock and where :07 meaning seconds were lost (Offense would’ve run out the clock anyway) but not here. Seems like McAulay is a “Teflon man”. Mr. Bottlegate also messed up the coin toss at the Super Bowl and missed an obvious False Start on the Bronco’s and instead covered up his mistake and called it illegal motion; Denver never got out of the hole after Seattle scored the safety. Seems to me like a double standard exists.

    Ben: As for Quirks comments, I commend him. He called a spade a spade and is not afraid to admit when one of his ‘guys’ messes up. I’m thinking that is a positive trait for a leader

  6. nice job on screwing up a story espn wanna be. i would have called the union even if they said they had no comment then you report no comment. instead you are facing libel and slander for not doing a thorough job. that is called dumb blonde fox girl.

    quirk should have blasted mcaulay. most over rated awful ref in the game. he is arrogant and thinks his stuff doesn’t stink. his crew was awful in the car/nyg game and didnt have the footballs to toss players. he deserved to be called out on it. so tired of listening to him ref games and call penalties.

  7. Here is what Blandino had to say regarding the officiating in the Carolina/NY game:
    The Josh Norman-Odell Beckham battle was so out of control on Sunday that at one point Dean Blandino, the NFL’s VP of officiating, called over to the Meadowlands to remind the officials they had the authority to throw players out of the game.

    And as far as Blandino is concerned, Beckham should’ve been the one to go.

    Blandino made that clear on Tuesday night during his “Official Review” segment on NFL Network. He didn’t absolve Norman, and he laid some blame on referee Terry McAulay and his crew. But he said the actions of Beckham — who drew a one-game suspension from the NFL — went “beyond the normal.” And in hindsight he believes the game officials would agree.


    “I think when you look at all of the actions in their entirety it does warrant an ejection,” Blandino said. “Any time a player is suspended, those actions would warrant an ejection. We don’t take disqualifications lightly. It’s a short season. The action really has to raise above and beyond the normal course. And this certainly did. There’s certainly an accumulation of instances.

    “And not just on Beckham. There were some things on the other side, too. And I think both parties were involved. The officials, if you ask them, they would agree after looking at the tape that ejections were warranted.”

    Blandino lamented that “there were two or three opportunities early in the game” for McAulay and his crew “to throw a flag and set the tone,” but they obviously missed them. There was a big one, in fact, just five plays into the game when Norman, seemingly unprovoked, slammed Beckham to the ground right in front of two officials. Not surprisingly, the game — a wild, 38-35 Panthers win — deteriorated from there.

  8. Here is a comment from one of ‘the current or former officials’ made right after the Giant/Carolina game. A GOLDEN RULE OF OFFICIATING, YOU DON’T PASS JUDGEMENT ON OTHER BECAUSE NEXT TIME IT COULD BE YOU IN THAT SITUATION. Guess if you are an expert it doesn’t count!!!

    Jim Daopoulos: Officials let Giants-Panthers … –

    Jim Daopoulos: Officials let Giants-Panthers game get out of hand (1:17) Former supervisor of NFL officials Jim Daopoulos explains why Odell Beckham Jr. was not …

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