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Who will be the referee at Super Bowl LI?

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Now that the divisional playoff assignments have been posted by Football Zebras, we can look to who the potential crew chief will be for Super Bowl LI. The NFL assigns its Super Bowl officiating staff to a second-round game to break up the gap between the end of the regular season and the big game, leaving us to choose from Gene Steratore, Pete Morelli, Carl Cheffers,  and Tony Corrente. Both Morelli and Corrente have worked a previous Super Bowl, although Morelli’s was as a field judge. This does not disqualify an official, but preference tends to go to an official who has not yet been assigned to a Super Bowl.

[Update 1/14: A front-runner is emerging.]

For Super Bowl LI, we make our case for …

Gene Steratore

I think this might be the year that Gene Steratore makes to to the Super Bowl. Steratore is an established veteran who has worked the conference championship both as a field judge and as a referee. He is confident and poised while working the game, and when you watch him work, you can tell he loves what he’s doing. Officiating the NFL isn’t enough for Steratore as he is a college basketball referee when not working the gridiron.

Steratore has proven he can lead a crew and get the best out of each position. The NFL has expressed that confidence in giving him and his crews high profile regular and postseason games. He has drawn an on-field playoff assignment in eight out of the last nine seasons.

Working so many high-profile games in both sports has seasoned him. He is unflappable. A screaming college coach doesn’t faze him, nor will the white-hot lights of the Super Bowl.

I predict Gene Steratore for Super Bowl LI. —Mark Schultz

Carl Cheffers

Who is Carl Cheffers?

If this is your immediate reaction when hearing the name of a referee  on any given Sunday, chances are that official is doing their job. And, admittedly, he flew under our radar this season.

I’ll spare our friends in Detroit, as I am aware that a very costly facemask penalty in 2015 gave the Packers new life against the Lions — when replays showed that the facemask did not occur. I get the gravity of the call from a fan’s perspective. While it doesn’t change the outcome, it was surely a call that Cheffers was hyper-self-critical about, even though it is highly likely that any other official would have made the same call, albeit erroneous.

From that, an official must maintain perspective: learn from the mistakes to become a better official and put the past behind you. During the Lions training camp last August, Cheffers was assigned to review the new rules and answer any questions the team had. A reporter  attempted to get more information on the ill-fated facemask call. Cheffers declined.

“It’s 2016, dude,” was the response. He must, in order to do his job, focus at the task at hand.

Cheffers is also known for a viral moment  when a complex enforcement of three fouls following a possession change became a living nightmare when  he opened the microphone. While Youtube does not forget, in the time since this cringe-inducing moment, Cheffers has shown a tremendous amount of growth as a referee.

He may not have the spotlight like Gene Steratore or Ed Hochuli, but Carl Cheffers has been efficiently and effectively steering his crew through successful seasons in the shadows. His name will be widely known in two weeks as the crew chief on the big stage. But, when the 2017 season kicks off next September, I expect a familiar question to come up:

Who is Carl Cheffers?  â€”Ben Austro

Your take

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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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21 thoughts on “Who will be the referee at Super Bowl LI?

  1. I’d love to see 114 get the game. He’s a fantastic game manager and seems to have real “control” of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if 51 is given the game, though, because I honestly believe Blandino is threatened by popular officials. I was stunned last year when 85 worked a conference championship – not because he was undeserving, but, again, because Blandino’s world doesn’t seem to include those the fans actually relate to and like. #teamgene this year

  2. In case they break standard protocol, “Field” is anyone else not listed — anyone from Jeff Triplette to Ruth Bader Ginsberg

  3. Defending Carl Cheffers, he is right to say that the facemask that was uncalled on Detroit is old news and should be forgotten. However, what shouldn’t be forgotten is the fact that Detroit failed to defend the hail mary that followed. If the Lions put even a good effort into stopping that hail mary, they would have won the game. However, they wouldn’t have gone to the playoffs but only ensured that the Vikings play Green Bay instead of Seattle and it is the Packers missing on the Vikings Field Goal kicker’s game winning attempt.

  4. I didn’t know SCOTUS was in the running for the Super Bowl. =)

    I think Steratore needs this Super Bowl. He has been consistent in all his years as a referee. I feel like he has been snubbed out of it the past couple years, as his management style is one of a kind and effective.

  5. Thank you for the post! looking forward to the big game hope the refs make the correct calls and don’t miss anything big!

  6. If Triplett were to get it, it would be for having been stuck with “the girl” this year. Lol

  7. FYI: Watching the Gonzaga-St. Marys basketball game. The referee: Bill Vinovich. The ESPN broadcasters say he will cover one of the championship games but he does not know which one.

  8. In defense of Carl Cheffers on the bad facemask call in Detroit. If you watch the replay watch how well Rodgers sold the call when he felt the fingers touch his mask and he turned his head feigning that he had been grabbed. I am for any of these guys except Tony Corrente. He has had a dark cloud around him all year and also resigned abruptly from his job as collegiate head of officials on west coast. He has also shown a propensity for not making calls at ends of games. How he gets rewarded and given playoff games i have no idea.

  9. NFL should be ashamed of their referee pick. They were absolute garbage for the Super Bowl.

  10. Should have been Gene , he is great official,both the coaches and players respect him and his ability.its a shame he has not got the Super Bowl yet. The NFL powers to be are jealous of him.

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