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2021 Wild Card Playoffs

Breaking down Wild Card assignments by the numbers

Let’s take a closer look at some of the officials calling this weekend’s Wild Card games.



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As we get ready to enjoy six Wild Card playoff games in three days, let’s break down the assignments.

Please note we don’t count the Pro Bowl as a playoff game.

Many Happy Returns

Craig Wrolstad (pictured above) gets an on-field playoff assignment for the first time since 2016, and for the third time since being named a referee in 2014. He has worked at least as an alternate every year since getting the white hat (including the alternate referee in Super Bowl LII), but on-field assignments have eluded him. He worked two conference championships and Super Bowl XLVII as a field judge.

Also, line judge Julian Mapp will work his first on-field playoff assignment since 2017.

Long playoff streak

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In the past 21 seasons, down judge Mark Hittner worked in the playoffs for 19 of them. In those 19 seasons, he has worked nine conference championships and three Super Bowls.

Additionally, down judge Dana McKenzie has worked a playoff assignment on the field in 10 out of the last 13 seasons (he was an alternate the other three). Perry Paganelli has worked in the playoffs for 12 straight seasons. Jim Mello has been assigned for 13 out of the last 16 seasons either at down judge or line judge.

In an era where even the best officials miss a playoff assignment a year or two, these are excellent playoff streaks.

First on-field playoff assignments

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Rookie officials are not eligible to officiate the playoffs. Officials with their first on-field assignment this weekend:

  • Joe Blubaugh, field judge #57 — second year
  • Dominique Pender, side judge #114 — second year
  • Daniel Gallagher, line judge #85 — second year
  • Grantis Bell, back judge #27 — second year
  • Tab Slaughter, umpire #110 — second year
  • Frank LeBlanc, down judge #44 — second year
  • Matt Edwards, back judge #96 — fourth year (twice an alternate)

Best of luck to all the wild card officials! May only fans of the officials remember your names on Tuesday.

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?"