When the Divisional Playoff round assignments are finalized, the guessing game begins for officiating fans. For over a decade, the Super Bowl officials have been chosen from the field who worked in the Divisional Playoff round, which prevents those officials from being sidelined between Week 18 and Super Bowl Sunday.
The NFL won’t take an intact Divisional Playoff crew and send them to the Super Bowl. At most, 5 officials from one Divisional Playoff game can advance to football’s biggest stage. Over the past few seasons, postseason assignment patterns have become clear which makes it possible to make a prediction for this season’s top white hat.
According to these assignment patterns, and through logical deductive reasoning, Football Zebras can comfortably predict that Carl Cheffers will be the referee for Super Bowl LVII in Arizona.
Cheffers, 62, officiated Super Bowl LV two seasons ago in Tampa. He would become the first referee to officiate 2 Super Bowls in a 3 year span in 32 years.
The first of two major assignment patterns that can be followed is that, with the exception of a 3-season span a few years ago, an official will not be assigned to more than 2 postseason games — on-field or alternate. Therefore, any official assigned to a Divisional Round game who also was an alternate during the Wild Card round will not be assigned to the Super Bowl.
Referees Clete Blakeman and Shawn Hochuli were both assigned as a Divisional Playoff on-field referee and a Wild Card Playoff alternate referee. This, in theory, would take them out of the running for Super Bowl honors.
This leaves Cheffers and Bill Vinovich as the remaining contenders. The second assignment pattern that can make the waters less murky is the “tandem” pattern. The Super Bowl referee and umpire are paired together in the Divisional Playoffs. Additionally, wing officials tend to be assigned together, based on which sideline they are on: the down judge with the side judge and the line judge with the field judge.
As we look to the Divisional Playoff assignments, Vinovich’s umpire is Bryan Neale, who worked last year’s Super Bowl. Officials cannot work back-to-back Super Bowls, so it appears that this referee-umpire tandem cannot advance. Cheffers’ umpire is Roy Ellison, who, even before the Divisional Playoff officiating assignments were determined, was one of only 3 umpires eligible to work the Super Bowl. The remaining 14 were considered ineligible because they have not met the 5 season requirement, had not been eligible for a postseason game in 3 of the past 5 years, or they were already assigned to a Wild Card Playoff.
Using these long-standing patterns as a guide, it is highly likely that Carl Cheffers will be the Super Bowl LVII referee, and Roy Ellison will join him as the umpire.
In analyzing the assignment patterns of the past and the eligibility requirements, it is likely that line judge Jeff Bergman — in his 30th and final season — and field judge John Jenkins will be assigned to Super Bowl LVII. It’s more of an open field for the remaining officials, and the probable choice for the down judge is Jerod Phillips and side judge Eugene Hall, the latter of which has already worked 2 Super Bowls in the last 4 years.
The back judge usually does not follow a pattern, so that is even more of a shot in the dark. Based on recent playoff assignments for the back judges in contention, taking into account their most recent Super Bowl, there is potential for back judge Greg Meyer to be assigned to Super Bowl LVII.
We expect the Super Bowl assignments to be distributed to the officials by Tuesday.
|R||51||Carl Cheffers||23||California-Irvine||sales manager|
|U||81||Roy Ellison||20||Hill||Savannah State||IT engineer|
|DJ||6||Jerod Phillips||7||Martin||Northeastern State||elementary school teacher|
|LJ||32||Jeff Bergman||30||Kemp||Robert Morris||president and chief executive officer, medical services|
|FJ||117||John Jenkins||9||Kemp||St. Mary’s||sales executive|
|SJ||103||Eugene Hall||9||Cheffers||North Texas||federal agent|
|BJ||78||Greg Meyer||21||Clark||Texas Christian||banker|