In a monumentally stunning move, NFL referee Terry McAulay, arguably the best referee on the NFL roster, has retired, as announced by senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron.
We welcome Shawn Smith as our newest @NFL referee for the 2018 season! After 3 seasons as an umpire, Shawn steps into the position vacated by the retirement of 20-year veteran Terry McAulay. We wish Terry the best! pic.twitter.com/fldoLIK6e2
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) June 21, 2018
Multiple sources tell Football Zebras that McAulay will likely join Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth in the NBC booth as a rules analyst for Sunday Night Football. This comes a day after our report that Jeff Triplette will join the Monday Night Football team on ESPN in the same capacity.
Former NFL game official Terry McAulay joins NBC Sports as Sunday Night Football rules analyst https://t.co/SvQQU2GpND
— NBC Sports PR (@NBCSportsPR) June 27, 2018
McAulay would be the first in-game NFL rules analyst for the network, although SNF director Fred Gaudelli has said that they maintained a live phone connection to the head of the officiating department. Senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron and predecessor Dean Blandino were never live on the broadcast, but probably relayed information to the crew. Michaels and Collinsworth both speak several times about officiating, sometimes complimentary and sometimes not (video). Hopefully we’ll hear fewer sarcastic officiating remarks from Michaels if McAulay is in the booth.
McAulay’s departure comes very late in the offseason, and well after the May 15 date that the officiating department uses to turn the calendar to the next season. A similar situation occurred in 2014 when referee Mike Carey abruptly resigned on June 24 to take a job with CBS Sports.
Fourth-year official Shawn Smith will move from umpire to referee.
According to officiating sources, the officials have not received their crew assignments for 2018, which is routinely handled on or immediately after May 15. In 2014, Carey was assigned a crew before his resignation, which lead to some reshuffling to put more veterans on the crew when it was given to Brad Allen.
McAulay just finished is 20th season as a NFL official. He joined the NFL in 1998 as a side judge. He wore uniform number 77 his entire career. He was assigned to the referee position in 2000; he worked for several seasons in the Atlantic Coast Conference as a referee, calling the 1998 Orange Bowl.
In his first year and a NFL referee in 2001, McAulay prematurely ended a Browns-Jaguars game due to fans throwing bottles on the field. The NFL called McAulay and ordered him and the teams back onto the field to finish the contest. As we’ve noted before, that incident challenged McAulay, but didn’t define his career.
The NFL assigned McAulay a conference championship game in only his second season as a referee — an astoundingly quick assignment.
In his 20-year NFL career, McAulay worked 17 playoff games, including three Super Bowls and eight conference championships. (In his rookie seasons as an official and as referee, he was ineligible.) He and Ed Hochuli were tied at the end of last year with the most combined conference championship and Super Bowl assignments of active referees with 11 each. (Line judge Byron Boston currently has 12.)
Over the last 15 years, McAulay established himself as one of — if not the — premier referee in the NFL. If the divisional playoffs were over and McAulay hadn’t been assigned a game yet, we could almost lock him in for a conference championship.
McAulay leaves in his prime. Jerry Markbreit is the only referee to be assigned to four Super Bowls (five officials from other positions hold the all time record with five Super Bowls). McAulay is only in his middle 50s. While it might have been difficult to tie the record of five Super Bowl assignments, I am nearly positive he left a fourth Super Bowl ring on the field with this job change.
Off the field, McAulay made news in 2015 after then-NFLRA executive director, Jim Quirk Sr., publicly criticized McAulay’s crew for not ejecting more players in a very rough Giants-Panthers game. McAulay responded by resigning from the officials union.
Over the past several seasons, McAulay has been the American Athletic Conference supervisor of officials. He left that job in March when the American Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference formed an officiating consortium.
Ben Austro contributed to this report.