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Referee Carl Cheffers is likely to get Super Bowl nod

Football Zebras analysis

After narrowing the field down from four candidates to two, Football Zebras has learned that a clear front-runner has emerged for the referee of Super Bowl LI.

[Update 1/18: Football Zebras has confirmed that all the officials listed below are  assigned to the Super Bowl.]

Carl Cheffers, according to multiple sources with knowledge of how the officials’ grades stand this season, is  the most likely candidate to head the all-star crew of officials for the final game of the season on Feb. 5 in Houston. The fact that Cheffers has not had a previous Super Bowl assignment furthers this likelihood, as the league  has shown preference to first-time officials that are in the top-graded tier.

Most of the crew that is working the Steelers-Chiefs game is believed to be headed to the Super Bowl, with two coming from the other AFC Divisional Playoff game. Typically, the referee-umpire pair and both  sideline tandems that are considered for the Super Bowl are placed in the the same divisional game, although there are usually no more than three such officials in the same game. The officials in the Kansas City game were originally in the early afternoon slot on Sunday, but due to the possibility of icy roads that morning, the game is now the bookend of the divisional weekend.

The Super Bowl assignments have not been finalized and will be distributed to the officials early next week. This gives the league office the ability to make silent changes if an official has a glaring error or is injured in the divisional game. Unofficially, the Super Bowl crew is believed to be as follows, shown with the number of Wild Card and Divisional Playoffs and Conference Championship games worked in the last five seasons:

         Yrs 2016 crew Div. Playoff 2011-2015 Prev. Super Bowl
R 51 Carl Cheffers 17    PIT-KC 1 DIV, 2 WC   
U 64 Dan Ferrell 14 Corrente PIT-KC 2 CC, 1 DIV   
HL 79 Kent Payne 13 Cheffers HOU-NE   4 CC, 1 DIV XLV
LJ 45 Jeff Seeman 15 Parry PIT-KC 1 CC,  2 DIV, 2 WC XLIV
FJ 67 Doug Rosenbaum 16 Morelli PIT-KC 1 CC, 3 WC   XLV
SJ 109 Dyrol Prioleau 10 Triplette HOU-NE   1 CC   
BJ 30 Todd Prukop 8 Corrente PIT-KC 2 DIV, 2 WC   

Again, this is subject to change, but Football Zebras has high confidence in the selections above based on knowledgeable sources and our internal analysis.

With that, there is still time to sound off on who you think will be the referee for Super Bowl LI in our poll below.

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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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16 thoughts on “Referee Carl Cheffers is likely to get Super Bowl nod

  1. Once again, you guys got it wrong. This website should consider changing its name to The hero worship here of a middle-of-the-pack official is obscene. There are 123 other officials, not that readers would know it from most of the editorial content and photos on this site. Too bad for Gene that the NFL assigns on merit.

  2. Ben is there a clear reason most of the super bowl crew is supposedly all in one game and not spread out.

  3. I don’t get the anti Seratore comments. I didn’t see a mistake at all during the Atlanta-Seattle game. What mistakes there were were overturned by replay. Also, from the Buffalo-NE game last year, how is he to blame for mistakes of his crew? Just wondered.

  4. So based on this weekend, yes this’ll likely be the Super Bowl crew, and I have no issues with any of them. From my inexpert observations, they had good games this weekend with minimal issues.

    So here’s my question…why place Cheffers, Ferrell, Seeman, Rosenbaum and Prukop on 1 game and Payne/Prioleau on a different game?

  5. @ Tony Pegler
    Can’t agree with you more regarding call by #75 Vernacci. Not only was it spot on, it took a lot of balls to make on the Cowboy sideline. Keep in mind Rob was disciplined not long ago for losing a few meaningless seconds in a game. This has to make him feel redeemed.

    @ Michael
    It takes balls to make a call like Cheffers made in that situation. Without looking at what was let go during the rest of the game it is very difficult to judge. By all standards it was a hold. Time will tell if it was what management in NY wanted.

  6. @Michael
    What rule book do you read? It’s not the NFL rule book. That looked like holding to me. Or to parphrase Harvey Dahl “That’s F***ING holding”!

  7. Todd Prukop is Brandon Stokely’s favorite official….NOT. When Prukop was a rookie on Mike Carey’s crew, Stokely swung and slapped Prulop’s hand, earning an ejection at Philadelphia.

  8. @ David,
    if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and smells like a duck, it’s a DUCK and that was a TAKEDOWN correctly call by the Referee, whether it’s the first play of the game or the last play of the game.

  9. That guy just lost his Superbowl bid with that stupid game ending call. You don’t call that hold on that play. Harrison was three yards past Smith and he flopped. Let the players determine playoff games not some guy looking to make a name for himself.

  10. @bbrillhart
    If you are the Chiefs, it’s a lousy call, if you are the Steelers it’s a good call. It all depends on which side of the fence you are on. When a blocker wraps his arm around the neck of the defender it should catch your attention as an official, then when the defender beats the feet of the blocker and he goes down, the flag will fly. As much as it took balls to make the correct call of a catch in the Cowboy game, it took balls to make this call too. I seriously doubt he cared whether it was early or late in the game. You can always play what if and say what if the pass was not completed or what if Harrison’s pressure caused Smith to step up and another player sacks him and on and on. Plus there was still 3 minutes to go in the game, all the Chiefs needed to do is ‘play some defense’ and get the ball back and then who knows what would’ve happened. If Cheffers was penciled in for the SB, this call should solidify his spot. It will be interesting to see what Blandino says tonight. He has supporter worst calls in the past, so this should be a no brainer.

  11. KC was not the first last minute, game-altering call by Carl, just ask Lions fans about who allowed the Packers Hail Mary game against the Lions in 2015

  12. On second thought, maybe Carl should do the Super Bowl. It would be entertaining to see a game hinge on another last minute, judgment call.

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