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2017 Postseason

Our playoff predictions: Hochuli, Torbert, and Vinovich rank high

Our annual tradition to predict which referees are assigned to the postseason and the Pro Bowl



Football Zebras commentary

Our annual tradition is to predict which referees are assigned to the postseason and the Pro Bowl. As we find every year, there tends to be a razor-thin line at the playoff cut, so an omission on this list does not necessarily mean we thought the referee was not worthy of a playoff assignment. We simply ran out of room.

You can see how we did in previous years (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012), and feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below.

Ben Austro

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Tough, tough decisions this season to make. This is more an exercise of inclusion than exclusion in my approach.

In the wild card round, I have Walt Coleman, Tony Corrente, John Hussey, and Pete Morelli. Any one of these would not be a surprise for the divisional round, in my opinion. Hussey is no longer the new white hat on the block and has shown some measurable improvement every year. The others are veterans with long postseason résumés, and have shown this season to be effective game managers.

In the divisional round, I think we will see Clete Blakeman, who continues to be a steady hand. Terry McAulay has been in more title games (conference championships and Super Bowls) that any other active official, and I have him right on the borderline between rounds 2 and 3. Craig Wrolstad has shown in four seasons that he was meant to be an NFL referee, and will continue his streak of postseason assignments.

For the conference championships, I have Bill Vinovich returning to the game for a third consecutive season; the year prior to that streak he worked the Super Bowl. The newcomer to the upper-tier games is Ron Torbert, who has been assigned to 5 postseason games, one in every year he was eligible for the playoffs.

Typically, I tend to “grade” Ed Hochuli on a very small curve, because his history and extensive playoff expertise tends to influence my decision. I don’t see any reason why Hochuli doesn’t get the big game in Minnesota, so I feel confident he’s earned this year. (This also means I have him working a divisional playoff under the typical assignment procedure.)

It’s not Hawaii, but I see Gene Steratore going to Disney World — or Orlando, at least — for the Pro Bowl.

Mark Schultz

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Once again there will be some very deserving officials staying off the field this year. It seems to me that the number of high quality candidates for a playoff game are growing each year, so an on-field playoff assignment is a high honor.

In the wild card round, I have John Hussey, Gene Steratore, Jeff Triplette and Clete Blakeman. Hussey is in his third year as a referee and was a playoff alternate last year. Time for him to get some turf time in January. Steratore and Blakeman are playoff veterans, but some might be surprised at my guess of Triplette, who has been a borderline playoff official in the past. He had not major gaffes this year, so I predict he’ll get a post season assignment.

In the divisional round, I predict we will see Ron Torbert, Bill Vinovich, Brad Allen and Craig Wrolstad. Vinovich worked the conference championship round and is a Super Bowl veteran referee. Torbert and Allen call their first divisional round as referees and Wrolstad will call his second divisional game in three years.

Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. For my conference championship predictions, I’m going with one Ed Hochuli and Walt Coleman. That leaves out Tony Corrente and Terry McAulay, two playoff regulars. I think it will just be a sheer numbers game — too many good officials with too few playoff games.

The Pro Bowl is definitely a “kiss your sister” assignment, but it beats putting the gear away early. I predict Tony Corrente will work the Pro Bowl.

In the past, the Super Bowl officials come out of the divisional round. I predict Bill Vinovich will work the Super Bowl. Wrolstad worked a Super Bowl as a field judge, so he is a veteran of pressure games. He has an outside chance at working a Super Bowl this year, but I’ll keep my guess at Vinovich. 

Only 12 NFL games (including the Pro Bowl) left.

  Ben Austro   Mark Schultz  
Super Bowl  Ed Hochuli    Bill Vinovich  
Conference Championship   Ron Torbert   Walt Coleman  
Bill Vinovich    Ed Hochuli   
Divisional Playoffs    Clete Blakeman    Brad Allen  
Ed Hochuli   Ron Torbert   
Terry McAulay   Bill Vinovich   
Craig Wrolstad    Craig Wrolstad   
Wild Card Playoffs    Walt Coleman   Clete Blakeman   
Tony Corrente   John Hussey   
John Hussey    Gene Steratore  
Pete Morelli   Jeff Triplette   
Pro Bowl Gene Steratore    Tony Corrente   

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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