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More than 20 officials are not playoff caliber

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It is a recurring question among fans if the performance of officials is getting better or worse. Postseason assignments can be a barometer of officials that have not made the grade by examining those excluded, and sources tell Football Zebras that the number of disqualified officials has reached new heights.

Multiple sources have stated that at least 20 officials, potentially as much as 25, have received “negative letters” from the league and will not work the postseason in a field or alternate capacity. This means out of the 118 possible officials — excluding the 8 rookie officials — there would be 95 officials to fill 70 available positions and 35 alternates. While the first-year officials may be given an alternate, that still leaves a gap that requires some officials to be double assigned.

The specific officials were not divulged to us by our sources, but this will become academic in a few weeks when all the playoff assignments have been ascertained.

Update 1/16: After counting up the officials who did not receive assignments, subtracting the first-year officials who are not eligible for assignment, and the 3 officials who are injured, 24 officials were specifically excluded from the postseason.

By comparing this to recent seasons, this is well above average. Not including known injuries, the number of officials that did not receive a postseason field or alternate assignment has been no more than the mid-teens since the last collective bargaining agreement was signed:

  • 2016 — 10 officials
  • 2015 — 16 officials
  • 2014 — 11 officials
  • 2013 — 15 officials
  • 2012 — 7 officials

The league informed officials who will not receive playoff assignment right after the Wild Card assignments were handed out on Tuesday. This is a courtesy to allow them to avoid being on standby when their services are not needed.

Does this mean that there will be doubling up of playoff officials on the field? In recent seasons, only the Super Bowl crew gets a second assignment in the Divisional Playoffs. We asked the league for clarification if the assignment procedures were different this season under new senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron, and they declined to comment.

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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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7 thoughts on “More than 20 officials are not playoff caliber

  1. When the postseason is done, could you list those officials without a playoff assignment here? Not for shaming but for analysis. Off year vs consistenty not assigned

  2. I think your math might be off. There are 105 slots to fill. The Super Bowl crew usually gets two assignments so that leaves 91 slots for the non Super Bowl crews. And the number of eligible officials is reduced to 111 when the Super Bowl crew is removed from the equation. So the league can have up to 20 officials on notice and still not need to double up additional officials.

  3. Time to name names.

    Promote people on the basis of skin or kin ( and now women) you will get mediocrity.

  4. Since Sarah Thomas got an alternate selection last week, she’s not one of the 20+ with a negative review. Wow! Those 20+ must be so bad, they should be dismissed!

  5. Correct me if I am wrong but the officials working the Pro Bowl are not Tier 3 officials either. We still don’t know that list as of now, however, there could be duplicates working that game also. That could change the final number.

  6. No post-season assignments, not even as an alternates (sorted by position, then last name; last number is years experience.) Fascinating to see that 1. every referee got an assignment, at minimum, an alternate. And 2. Some former SB-caliber officials are on this list.
    Note that SB alternates have not been posted on the site yet.

    U 76 Alan Eck 2
    U 124 Carl Paganelli 18
    U 19 Clay Martin 3
    U 64 Dan Ferrell 15
    U 44 Jeff Rice 23
    U 121 Paul King 9
    U 128 Ramon George 2
    U 49 Rich Hall 14
    U 71 Ruben Fowler 12
    U 115 Tony Michalek 16
    DJ 123 Ed Walker 4
    DJ 98 Greg Bradley 9
    DJ 32 Jeff Bergman 26
    DJ 37 Jim Howey 19
    DJ 22 Steve Stelljes 16
    LJ 2 Bart Longson 3
    LJ 45 Jeff Seeman 16
    LJ 68 Tom Stephan 19
    FJ 82 Buddy Horton 19
    FJ 118 David Meslow 7
    FJ 86 Jimmy Buchanan 9
    FJ 89 Jon Lucivansky 9
    FJ 15 Rick Patterson 22
    SJ 29 Adrian Hill 8
    SJ 26 Jabir Walker 3
    SJ 21 Jeff Lamberth 16
    SJ 120 Jonah Monroe 3
    SJ 7 Keith Washington 10
    SJ 125 Laird Hayes 23
    BJ 5 Jim Quirk 8
    BJ 61 Keith Ferguson 18
    BJ 27 Lee Dyer 15
    BJ 39 Rich Martinez 4

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