We’re at the divisional playoff round. And, if senior vice president of officiating training and development Walt Anderson follows precedent, Super Bowl LV officials are working this weekend.
Of the four referees working this weekend, Ron Torbert, Shawn Hochuli and Carl Cheffers are eligible to work the big game. We’ve read the tea leaves and we are guessing that either Torbert or Hochuli will flip the coin February 7, in Tampa. Football Zebras editors Cam Filipe and Mark Schultz break down the two finalists.
Ron Torbert is no stranger to our Super Bowl predictions. We slated him as a top-two finalist in both 2016 and 2017, and even doubled down and named him our frontrunner for Super Bowl LIII. I also named him my Super Bowl LV choice during Week 17 of this season. We were wrong in previous years, but we won’t be wrong this time.
Torbert, promoted to referee in 2014 after working as a side judge for 4 seasons, is easily becoming one of the most recognizable NFL referees and has been no stranger to high-profile games.
Although he has not yet worked a Conference Championship game, he is still eligible to work the Super Bowl on the grounds that he has at least 5 years of NFL experience, with at least 3 of those seasons as a referee, in addition to a prior playoff assignment at the referee position.
Until last season, Torbert made the playoffs in every year he was eligible. In the 2019 postseason, Torbert missed out on an assignment; he wasn’t even chosen as an alternate official. I must say, that confused the heck out of me.
Why is that? Torbert is becoming one of the league’s top referees and top officials, and I still think he will be the referee for Super Bowl LV in Tampa. If anything at all is an indication, our repeated praise shows how deserving Ron Torbert is of a Super Bowl assignment.
Shawn Hochuli became a NFL back judge in 2014 after several seasons as a Big 12 and Pac-12 back judge and referee.
He was appointed a referee in the 2018 season.
Hochuli has worked a total of five playoff games in seven years – four divisional playoffs and one wild card playoff game. He’s worked a playoff game on the field every year eligible. While he has yet to work a conference championship game, like Torbert, he meets the experience threshold for a Super Bowl assignment.
A chip off the old block, Hochuli is fast building a reputation as a solid referee who runs a good game, makes good calls, is good on the mic and is a good crew chief.
No matter who leads the crew, time is on Hochuli’s side. Not only does he have the chance to join the 30-year club, he also has the chance to work multiple Super Bowls.
Don’t be surprised if number 83 calls Super Bowl LV. Hochuli is my guess.
We could still be surprised
Carl Cheffers is still a possibility, but he worked Super Bowl LI while Hochuli and Torbert haven’t worked the big game. The NFL gives Tier 1 officials who haven’t worked a Super Bowl the nod over their Tier 1 colleagues who have a Super Bowl ring.
But, this is Walt Anderson’s first year of assigning the playoffs and he may have some different ideas than us.
Time to put our tea leaves in a mug of hot water and wait.