Football Zebras has learned that nine NFL officials will not be returning to the field for the 2020 NFL season. We have previously reported the retirements of umpire Jeff Rice, down judge Mike Spanier, and line judge Byron Boston, as well as the promotion of referee Walt Anderson to the senior vice president of officiating training and development, earlier this year, but we can now confirm five more officials will be leaving the field.
With these nine departures, and only six new hires, there will be no swing officials in the 2020 season, the first time no swing officials will be on the roster since 2014.
Leaving the field
|former college officiating coordinator, retired dentist
|St Cloud State
|middle school principal
|tax consultant, Southland Conference officiating coordinator
|chief operating officer
|Lamar Institute of Tech.
|neighborhood services manager
|Grand Valley State
|wealth management advisor
|software quality assurance manager
|regional sales manager
|customer service representative
Promoted to referee
|Sevier Valley Tech
|chief building official
*includes 2020 season
Walt Anderson worked 24 seasons in the NFL; his first 7 seasons as a line judge, and was promoted to referee for the 2003 NFL season. Anderson was assigned to 19 postseason games, including 9 Wild Card Playoffs, 3 Divisional Playoffs, 5 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XXXV and XLV. His first Super Bowl assignment was as a line judge. Anderson has taken a job in the league office as the senior vice president of officiating training and development.
Bill Schuster worked 20 seasons as an NFL umpire. Schuster was assigned to 11 postseason games, including 3 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 2 Conference Championships, and Super Bowl XLIX. Schuster battled and beat esophageal cancer in 2016.
Phil McKinnely worked 18 seasons as a down judge (previously head linesman) in the NFL. He was hired almost 20 years after hanging up his cleats as an offensive tackle for the Falcons, Rams, Bears, and Memphis Showboats of the USFL. McKinnely was assigned to 8 postseason games, including 5 Wild Card Playoffs and 3 Divisional Playoffs.
Mike Spanier worked 21 seasons as a short wing official in the NFL, working his first 18 seasons as a line judge, and his last three seasons as a down judge. In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, he worked as a swing official, working both short wing positions interchangeably to fill in for officials on off weeks. Spanier was assigned to 9 postseason games, including 3 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, and the 2006 NFC Championship Game.
Byron Boston worked 25 seasons as an NFL line judge. Boston was widely regarded as one of the NFL’s top officials for two and a half decades. Boston was assigned to 25 postseason games, including 5 Wild Card Playoffs, 7 Divisional Playoffs, 10 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XXXIV, XLVII, and LII. Prior to his retirement, Boston had the most postseason assignments among all active NFL officials; that distinction is now jointly held by line judge Jeff Bergman and field judge Tom Hill, with 22 postseason assignments each.
Lee Dyer worked 17 seasons as a deep official in the NFL. His first 16 seasons were at the back judge position, and he worked at the field judge position in his final season. Dyer was assigned to 5 postseason games, including 4 Wild Card Playoffs and 1 Divisional Playoff.
Joe Larrew worked 18 seasons as a deep wing official in the NFL, with his first 15 seasons as a side judge, and his last 3 seasons as a field judge. Larrew was assigned to 10 postseason games, including 2 Wild Card Playoffs, 6 Divisional Playoffs, the 2015 NFC Championship Game, and Super Bowl XLVII. Larrew’s son, Justin, is a former participant in the Officiating Development Program and officiated in the XFL and the Alliance of American Football.
Steve Zimmer worked 23 seasons as an NFL field judge. Zimmer was assigned to 21 postseason games, including 7 Wild Card Playoffs, 8 Divisional Playoffs, 4 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XL and LIII.