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2021 Conference Championships

7 officiating observations from Conference Championship Weekend

7 officiating thoughts from conference championship weekend.



Another great playoff weekend is in the books and Super Bowl LVI is set. Here are seven observations I saw this weekend as it relates to officiating.

1. The officials let them play.

Isn’t that what fans want most of all? There wasn’t one foul I saw this weekend that I thought was marginal, over-officious or picky. Both crews threw flags when one player or team got an unfair advantage over the other. Neither crew got a case of Yellow Fever this weekend.

2. The officials didn’t put up with nonsense.

Whether it was flopping for a call, or unsportsmanlike conduct, the officials were not about to be bamboozled.

There were a few unsportsmanlike conduct calls this weekend and all were there. A 15-yard penalty is magnified 100-fold in a playoff, so the officials better be sure when they call it. On the flip side, if a player has earned that flag, the officials need guts to call it. All 15-yarders were earned this weekend.

3. A few safety calls missed.

While it didn’t impact the ultimate result of the game, there were some rough plays in the NFC Championship Game that needed to be called. These plays happen so fast, slow motion replay makes it look like a big miss. But still, there were a few rough hits out there (especially the one on Stafford above) that the officials will look at and wish they threw the flag.

4. Get in there and create a presence.

The playoffs are not the time to be a shrinking violet. It is vital for the officials to get in the middle of disagreements and spats between players. The officials have to do that to prevent a bigger fight and help the players refocus their energy.

When that happens, the official runs the risk to getting winged by an errant shove, or subject to a volley of verbal abuse by a player who is enraged and takes it out on the zebra. Many officials stepped up and created a presence this weekend, just like Paul King and Eugene Hall in the clip above.

5. A cool moment on the sideline.

You have to look quickly, but in the AFC Conference Championship, we saw alternate Rusty Baynes, affirm a call by down judge Ed Camp and side judge Jonah Monroe.

L’Jarious Sneed made a great interception. Monroe and Camp quickly looked at each other and agreed the interception was good.

Look on the sideline during the replay. You see Baynes give Camp a quick nod as in, “I have the same as you.” Nothing earth-shaking, but a nice moment.

On another note, the jersey grab didn’t materially restrict the receiver, so this was a good no-call.

6. Thankfully, no covid-19 alternates.

Covid-19 is still a threat. But thankfully, the alternates were not pressed into service this weekend due to a positive covid-19 test among the officials. The officials had a full crew of alternates this weekend and will have a full crew of alternates during the Super Bowl, in case (perish the thought) anyone tests positive or becomes ill.

7. And, good to see Fred Bryan!

Umpire Fred Bryan was forced to leave his Week 17 for game some unknown reason, and he missed his Week 18 assignment.

So, we were glad to see Bryan back on the field for the AFC Conference Championship. And, what an exciting game to come back to!

One more meaningful game and one more exhibition game and the NFL season will be over. Congratulations to the officials working this weekend, and best wishes to the officials who still have a game left.

We will be here reporting any and all officiating news and providing analysis leading up to and during Super Bowl LVI.

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?"