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5 Super Bowl LVI officiating observations

The longest NFL season ever has come to an end with a compelling Super Bowl. Here are five officiating observations from another classic game.

1. Another nice coin toss

Over the years I’ve railed against the crush of media and hangers-on for the Super Bowl coin toss. Last year, the coin toss was socially distanced and there wasn’t the crush of media. Refreshing.

This year, while there were more media at the coin toss, they kept their distance and allowed Ron Torbert and the captains to do their jobs.

And another note. In the past, after the result of the coin toss, the captains quickly gave the referee their options, shook hands and sprinted off the field (through the media crush) before the referee finished the coin toss announcement. This year, by design or accident, the captains stayed put. Good for them!

Also, in a nice hat tip to the late Red Cashion, Torbert finished the toss, saying what Cashion always said every coin toss – “Gentlemen, let’s play football.”

2. Don’t get straight-lined

The biggest miss of the game happened when a Bengals touchdown should have been called back for an offensive face mask or offensive pass interference – take your pick.

Side judge Keith Washington was the primary covering official on the play. He got behind the play and had a bad angle – he got straight-lined. Back judge Scott Helverson could have helped on that play had he moved off of receivers he was watching and happened to see the action.

Slow motion replay makes things look bad. While it real time the infraction happened in an instant, but someone should have seen it and called it.

3. Calls even out

But even with the missed face mask foul, the Rams benefited from a 50-50 flag late — the defensive holding foul with 1:44 to go in the game.

If officials miss a call, or there’s a 50-50 call, fans will scream. But, eventually the calls will even out.

4. No replays!

There were no replay challenges this game — either by the coach or the replay official. In the last three Super Bowls, there have been a total of three replay reviews in total.

With the top-tier officials on the game, we should expect a smoother flow to the game and maybe fewer reviews. The number of reviews doesn’t necessarily equate to the quality of officiating, but good officials usually means fewer stoppages due to reviews.

5. Alternates help when needed.

In the past 10 years, alternate officials have done more that stand around and spectate. Today, alternate officials act as a liaison between the sideline and the officials. And, they also serve as an extra pair of hands in trying to break up fights. Alternate umpire Paul King got right in the middle of the above scrum, helping his crew.

It’s done. An exceptional season, a playoffs for the ages and an excellent Super Bowl brings the curtain down on the 2021 season. We will be here for off-season news and speculation, spring football (will the USFL make it a full season?) news as warranted, and whatever else officiating offers us.

The 2022 Hall of Fame game is in 25 weeks.

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Mark Schultz
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?"

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3 thoughts on “5 Super Bowl LVI officiating observations

  1. Watching the video here, Washington didn’t lose his cushion or get straight lined. He took the play off. He didn’t even move until the receivers were by him, which is not good form for a deep wing.

  2. The coin toss was moronic. Billie Jean king -what football fan gives a rats rear end about her. Invite Jerry Kramer or some other living legend of the gridiron.

    Bad calls do not even out. That’s a stupid argument. It’s a counterfactual. Who knows what happens if the bengals are facing 1st and 20 at the 15 as opposed to scoring a TD. Just say that the official missed an insanely obvious call. It was a disgrace.

  3. SJ was beat but that wasn’t his key. He followed his key into the middle but didn’t keep a good cushion. Should have been the short wings key. Bad miss by all three covering officials but it wasn’t solely on the side judge.

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