As we approach Super Bowl LVII, let’s break down the officiating crew by the numbers.
I. One of the most experienced crews in over 20 years
In Super Bowl XXXIV, Bob McElwee’s crew had a combined 21 Super Bowl assignments. It is highly doubtful that there will be another, more experienced crew call the game, but this year’s crew is very close. Counting this game, Carl Cheffers’ crew will have 17 Super Bowl assignments.
|Yrs||2022 crew||College||Occupation||Prev. Postseason||Prev. SB|
|R||51||Carl Cheffers||23||California-Irvine||sales manager||5 WC, 7 DIV, 3 CC||LI, LV|
|U||81||Roy Ellison||20||Hill||Savannah State||IT engineer||4 WC, 6 DIV, 4 CC||XLIII, LII|
|DJ||6||Jerod Phillips||7||Martin||Northeastern State||elementary school teacher||2 WC, 3 DIV, 2 CC|
|LJ||32||Jeff Bergman||30||Kemp||Robert Morris||president and chief executive officer, medical services||8 WC, 10 DIV, 3 CC||XXXI, LIII|
|FJ||117||John Jenkins||9||Kemp||St. Mary’s||sales executive||1 WC, 3 DIV|
|SJ||103||Eugene Hall||9||Cheffers||North Texas||federal agent||3 WC, 4 DIV, 3 CC||LIII, LV|
|BJ||105||Dino Paganelli||17||Smith||Aquinas College||educator||2 WC, 10 DIV, 2 CC||XLVII, LV|
This is the 7th Super Bowl where at least 3 officials were on their third trip to the big game and the first one since that supercrew headed by McElwee in XXXIV. The Cheffers and McElwee crews are the only ones to have 5 officials on their third trip.
Since 2000, this is the 8th time that over half the crew has at least one prior Super Bowl.
The last five Super Bowls have had four or more crew members with prior Super Bowl experience. So, it appears a trend is developing where the NFL wants most of the crew with prior Super Bowl experience.
II. Some unbreakable Super Bowl records this Sunday?
Jeff Bergman is retiring after the Super Bowl on Sunday. This is his third and final Super Bowl assignment. He will hold Super Bowl longevity records that I doubt will be broken.
Bergman’s first Super Bowl was XXXI. It was another 22 seasons before he received his second Super Bowl assignment (LIII) which is a record number of seasons between assignments. It will be 26 seasons between his first Super Bowl assignment and his final Super Bowl assignment. I think that is a record that will last a long time. In his 30th season, Bergman will also set the record for the most tenured official at the time of their Super Bowl assignment. Only eight officials have cracked the 30 Club, and to match the feat, another official would have to also attain the Super Bowl after doing so. (Head linesman Dan Tehan officiated the 1963 NFL Championship Game in his 31st season, prior to the Super Bowl era.)
Eugene Hall continues an epic run that would be hard to match and impossible to beat. Before Hall, side judge Laird Hayes had his second Super Bowl in his 9th season. Hall is in his 9th season and is on his third trip. Under the assignment rules that exist, an official cannot work a Super Bowl prior to their 5th season, and cannot repeat in consecutive seasons. Thus, a future official with these rules in place could only work in the 5th, 7th, and 9th seasons as Hall has done. The only way to surpass the feat is to work the fourth game in Year 11, but it’s possible that Hall himself will be the one to do that.
III. Passing of the torch
Super Bowl XXXI is the earliest one to have been worked by an active official. After Bergman’s and Mark Hittner’s retirements (and assuming there aren’t others to be announced) this will move to Super Bowl XXXIX, which was worked by umpire Carl Paganelli and side judge Rick Patterson. That means that every other active official who worked a Super Bowl has an L in the Roman numerals.
Bergman is the 12th official to have a Super Bowl be the final game of his career.
IV. It’s a family affair
Bergman returns for a final time to the game that his father and brother also worked.
There have been 7 father-son combinations in Super Bowl history, which counts the elder Jerry Bergman twice for his two officiating sons. But there are only 3 father-son combos who have each worked multiple Super Bowls:
- Bob Rice as side judge (XVI and XX) and Jeff Rice as umpire (XXXVI, XXXVIII, and 50)
- Jerry Seeman as referee (XXIII and XXV) and Jeff Seeman as line judge (XLIV and LI)
- Jerry Bergman Sr. as head linesman (XIII, XVI, XVIII, XXIII) and Jeff Bergman as line judge (XXXI, LIII, and LVII)
Jeff Bergman adds another to his family tally of 8 Super Bowls, but they fall short of the record as back judge Dino kept the Paganellis in the lead with 9.
V. Working together
Carl Cheffers is the 9th white hat to have a crew member work with him in two Super Bowls, as Eugene Hall and Dino Paganelli both worked with him in Super Bowl LV. This is the second time where more than one official returned to a white hat’s crew. Referee Jim Tunney had three members of his Super Bowl VI crew return for Super Bowl XII.
There have been 7 white hats that worked multiple Super Bowls without a repeater.
On a separate track, there are two pairs of regular-season crewmates assigned this year’s Super Bowl. Line judge Jeff Bergman and field judge John Jenkins served together on Alex Kemp’s crew and Cheffers and side judge Eugene Hall served together in the regular season. The Bergman/Jenkins tandem is the 6th time that 2 wing officials worked on the same sideline on their regular season crew and in the Super Bowl, and it is the first time that has happened since Super Bowl XXXVI (head linesman Hittner and side judge Laird Hayes).
VI. Position streaks
This is the 7th consecutive year where the line judge is not a first-time Super Bowl official, which is tied for the longest streak of any position. Incidentally, there were 7 consecutive white hats from Super Bowls XXV to XXXI (1990 through 1997 seasons) that had worked a prior Super Bowl, but two of them (Dick Hantak in XXVII and Gerry Austin in XXXI) did not work at the referee position in their previous assignment.
Back judges are currently in a long streak of 6 repeaters, inching close to the record streak.
Hall has tied the side judge record with his third Super Bowl, tied with Tom Fincken, Dean Look, and Laird Hayes. The record for the other positions is 4 for referees and 5 for each of the other positions. Keep in mind that the first 12 Super Bowls preceded the creation of the side judge position.
VII. Inside the numbers
Here are the number of times the Super Bowl LVII crew uniform numbers were worn in prior Super Bowls.
|Times||Previously worn by other officials|
|R||51||Carl Cheffers||7th||U Lou Palazzi (IV, VII, XI), LJ Dale Orem (XXX)|
|U||81||Roy Ellison||3rd||Ellison only|
|DJ||6||Jerrod Phillips||4th||R Bernie Ullman (IX), BJ′ Stan Javie (XIV*), FJ′ Don Hakes (XVI*)|
|LJ||32||Jeff Bergman||8th||HL Tony Veteri Sr (II*), LJ Cal Lepore (III), R Jim Tunney (VI, XI, XII)|
|FJ||117||John Jenkins||3rd||LJ Ben Montgomery (XXXII, XXXVIII)|
|SJ||103||Eugene Hall||3rd||Hall only|
|BJ||105||Dino Paganelli||6th||BJ′/R Dick Hantak (XVII, XXVII)|
Back judge and field judge position names were swapped prior to 1998, and a prime symbol (′) indicates the former designation. *Special numbering system was in place.
For Super Bowls I and II, the mixed AFL and NFL officials had a special uniform and special numbers. The referee wore 10, the umpire 20, head linesman 30, line judge 40, field judge 50 and back judge 60. For Super Bowl II, the crew was numbered 12, 22, 32, etc. From 1979-1981 the NFL tried a different numbering system which is a whole other article of information.
Three officials have a triple digit uniform number this year. The last Super Bowl that didn’t have at least one on-field official with a triple-digit jersey number was Super Bowl XLIV. The crew with most triple-digit jerseys was Super Bowl XLVI which had five officials sporting a number over 100.
Discounting the special numbers in Super Bowls I and II, and the 1979-81 numbering system, the numbers worn the most times in the Super Bowl are:
- 34 — eight times
- 9, 25, 32 and 51 — seven times
- 59, 77, 93, and 106 — six times
And, the following numbers have never been worn by an official in a Super Bowl:
- 69 (never been issued to an official)
Once again, yes, we are that much of number nerds.
Have a great time zebra-watching the final game of the year!
Image: Designed by Ben Austro; Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images / John Martinez Pavliga