Football Zebras analysis
We have analyzed the Divisional Round assignments, and after review, there seems to be a front-runner among the possible candidates to wear the white hat at Super Bowl LII.
Gene Steratore is the most likely candidate to head the all-star crew during the league championship in Minneapolis on Feb. 4. Steratore has not received a previous Super Bowl assignment, which increases this probability, as the officiating department tends to give priority to officials that have not worked a previous Super Bowl.
Steratore has been a fan favorite, and was a supermajority in last year’s informal reader poll at this same time last year.
These selections are definitely subject to change, and Football Zebras has determined these selections based on both sources and our own analysis. While we have posted the early list in seasons past with “high confidence” — every selection was correct last year — this time we are a little more guarded. Complicating the analysis this year is that Bill Vinovich may have triggered an override clause in the officials’ collective bargaining agreement — that is, an official who grades first in consecutive seasons cannot be denied a Super Bowl assignment both times. Additionally, sources have said that the executive branch of the league offices was not happy with the optics of Steratore’s infamous measurement in Week 15, and the degree to which that affects the postseason assignments is not clear. Compounding all of this is that the officiating department has a new senior vice president in Al Riveron, who may decide to handle things differently under his control.
The caveat this year is that this is the most likely crew, and not a lock as when Vinovich went to Super Bowl XLIX.
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 any changes if an official has a glaring error or is injured in this weekend’s games. Unofficially, the Super Bowl crew is believed to be as follows, shown with the number of Wild Card, Divisional Playoff, Conference Championship, and Super Bowl games worked in the last five seasons:
|Yrs||2017 crew||Div. Playoff||2012-2016||Prev. Super Bowl|
|R||114||Gene Steratore||15||NO-MIN||1 WC, 2 DIV, 1 CC|
|U||81||Roy Ellison||15||Steratore||NO-MIN||2 WC, 2 DIV*||XLIII|
|LJ||10||9||Wrolstad||JAX-PIT||1 WC, 1 DIV, 1 CC|
|FJ||73||16||Blakeman||JAX-PIT||1 WC, 3 DIV, 1 CC, SB||XLVII|
|SJ||56||10||Hussey||ATL-PHI||2 WC, 2 CC|
|BJ||78||16||Vinovich||NO-MIN||1 WC, 1 DIV, 2 CC||XLIV|
*Missed one year due to injury or leave of absence.
There have only been two known instances of where officials have been pulled from a Super Bowl assignment. George Hayward was on the crew that misapplied the rules on the final play of the Giants-49ers wild card game, and the league considered the rule misapplication a crew error. Also, field judge John Robison was pulled from Super Bowl XXXII after a controversial call in the Vikings-Giants wild card game in the 1997 season.
Fear not, there is still time to sound off on who you think will be the referee for Super Bowl LII in our poll below.
Image: Minnesota Vikings photo/Football Zebras graphic