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Breaking down the new NFL officiating hires

Football Zebras was first to report the news on May 3 that the NFL hired 10 new officials.

As we digest the news, here are a few things that I have noticed.

Commitment to diversity

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The NFL continues to hire minority and female officials. Down judge Robin DeLorenzo (pictured) becomes the third woman permanently hired on the field by the NFL. Lo Van Pham is the first Asian-American official.

People can either agree or disagree with the NFL’s hiring approach, but the 2022 officiating roster is the most diverse in history.

Several collegiate white hats hired as umpire

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The NFL hired veteran college referees Brandon Cruse (pictured), Alex Moore, and Duane Heydt as umpires.

There is much to unpack here.

First of all, the NFL had to deal with eight referee retirements in a span of three years. There were several surprise retirements as Mike Carey, John Parry, Gene Steratore and Terry McAulay left the field at a relatively young age to work on TV. The NFL had to scramble to fill the referee vacancies. Moore, Cruse and Heydt deepen the potential white hat bench, in case there are multiple referee retirements in the coming seasons.

Secondly, Cruse, Moore and Heydt have been college referees for a long time. The NFL wanted to give them a similar angle to view the game that they had for several years in college.  Putting the three veterans in at umpire gives them the best chance to succeed.

In the off-season, Tra Blake was promoted to referee in only his third season, replacing the retired Tony Corrente. Current side judges Jonah Monroe and Don Willard have also auditioned for referee, and they both worked the 2021 playoffs.  The NFL doesn’t consider seniority when promoting officials to referee.

So now, we have five potential, future referees on the NFL staff — Monroe, Willard, Cruse, Heydt and Moore. Other officials (Barry Anderson, Alan Eck and Fred Bryan) have been in the mix in the past, but we don’t know if they are still under consideration for the white hat. Are Monroe and Willard still in the mix to become a referee? It will be come more difficult to read the tea leaves to determine who will be the next referee.

When will there be another referee opening and how many? Land Clark is 60. Bill Vinovich is 61. Carl Cheffers will be 62 during the 2022 season. Jerome Boger will be 67 for the 2022 season. All are in good condition and could continue more than one year.

Looking further ahead, referees Adrian Hill, Craig Wrolstad and John Hussey are 55 or older. These officials can work another 10-years easily, but time marches on and waits for no one.

Look for swing umpires this season

Rich Hall was the only umpire to retire this season. The NFL hired four umpires. This means there will be swing umpires this season.

Swing officials occur when the NFL hires extra officials at one position. The NFL does that if an official has been sick or injured and has to start the season on the injured list. Or, the NFL really wants to hire an official, but there aren’t any openings at the position. So, veteran officials are not assigned a crew and are listed as swing officials. Instead of being on one set crew, swing officials rotate to different crews each week.

Veteran or injured officials are always listed as swing officials as rookies need continuity of a set crew for the whole season. If you see an official listed as a swing official for 2022, rest assured; it is not a demotion or a reflection of the swing official’s standing with the NFL. In fact, a swing official must flawlessly adapt to working on nearly every crew.

All in the Family, NFL style

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The tradition of families working in the NFL continues as Tra Boger and his dad, referee Jerome Boger are both in the NFL. There is precedent for fathers and sons working together. If Tra is not on the same crew as his dad, I’m sure the NFL will pair the two together in a preseason game.

Here is a list of father-son combinations who worked in the NFL at the same time:

  • Jerry Bergman, Sr., and Jeff Bergman (1991-1995)
  • Ed and Shawn Hochuli (2014-2017)
  • Steve and Brad Freeman (2014-2019)
  • Walt Coleman and Walt Coleman IV (2015-2018)
  • Jerome and Tra Boger (2022)

Later this month, the officials will receive the first memo from the league, receive their crew assignments and receive their new gear for the 2022 season.

We will be here to report and analyze all the preseason news.

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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 “Breaking down the new NFL officiating hires

  1. I think that Swing Officials might be U Carl Paganelli or U Tony Michalek or U Bruce strikesky and FJ Michael Banks

  2. You know what is better than a commitment to diversity?

    A commitment to excellence.

    Imagine if NFL teams had to hire underrepresented groups as players! I witnessed a few games last year where 4 of the 7 on field official were incompetent. The umpire was overweight and limping and looked lost and set the ball on the wrong hash multiple times/ the LJ was short and portly and out of position multiple times/ the FJ was overweight and unable to track downfield play and the SJ was every bit of 70 years old and unable to track plays. The SJ has retired but the other 3 are still in the league.

    The quality is becoming a serious issue.

  3. Why say the “agree or disagree” portion? Just gives people like Eric Stratton the go ahead to make foolish comments (see above). Didn’t see some side comments in the stories when the hires were all White Men. C’mon Football Zebras – you’re better than this.

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