As the postseason officiating assignments for the first three playoff rounds have been announced, a sole frontrunner has emerged for referee of this year’s Super Bowl — and this frontrunner is no stranger to receiving Super Bowl rings.
With reasonable certainty, Football Zebras has determined that Bill Vinovich will be the referee of Super Bowl LVIII.
Vinovich, 62, in his 18th season and 15th as referee, was one of our two white hat candidates for this year’s Super Bowl, and he has now pulled ahead in the final stretch. He was the referee for Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LIV, and, if assigned, will become the 8th referee in league history to work at least 3 Super Bowls at the referee position.
This determination, as well as the determination of the remaining crew members for Super Bowl LVIII, was made based on postseason assignment patterns that have been in place for over a decade. Most notably, the Super Bowl officials are selected from the pool of 28 on-field officials who worked the Divisional Playoffs.
Additionally, with the exception of the 3-year span betwen the 2017 and 2019 seasons, officials are typically not assigned to more than 3 postseason games, whether as an alternate official or an on-field official. This was the case prior to 2017, and was re-instated in the 2020 season, and we expect that guideline to remain in place this year.
Finally, these minimum qualifications apply for Super Bowl officials:
- 5 years of NFL experience
- 3 years as NFL referee
- 1 postseason game as a referee in a previous season
- 5 years of NFL experience
- Postseason experience of either:
- 1 career conference championship game
- 3 playoff-qualifying seasons in the previous 5 years
Using these 3 guiding patterns and procedures, we can determine the likely officials to be on the field in Las Vegas on February 11th.
Vinovich is now the leading frontrunner for Super Bowl referee since each of the remaining Divisional Playoff referees have already been assigned to their limit of 2 postseason games. In addition to their on-field Divisional Playoff assignment, referees John Hussey and Alex Kemp were assigned as alternate referees in the Wild Card Playoff round, and Shawn Hochuli has been assigned as the alternate referee for the NFC Championship Game. This leaves Vinovich as the only remaining eligible referee who has not yet been assigned the maximum number of playoff games.
At the umpire position, we are expecting Terry Killens — in his 5th season and 1st year eligible — to be named the Super Bowl LVIII umpire. Taking a look at the field from the Divisional Playoffs, umpires Alex Moore and Mike Morton can be eliminated since they do not meet the years of service requirement, and Carl Paganelli was named the alternate umpire for the NFC Championship Game, giving him his maximum number of postseason assignments.
The line of scrimmage officials present the toughest challenge to predict. Down judges Patrick Holt and Danny Short are still both in the running, as are line judges Mark Perlman and Tim Podraza. Our determination is that Patrick Holt and Mark Perlman will be getting the call to officiate Super Bowl LVIII. The other option at each position are still strong possibilities, but based on observations during the season, we believe Holt and Perlman have met the Super Bowl standard.
At field judge, Tom Hill, who is retiring at the end of the season, will likely ride off into the sunset after officiating his 4th Super Bowl. The other 3 Divisional Playoff field judges already reached their limit on postseason games. Anthony Flemming, who was assigned a Conference Championship in addition to his Divisional Playoff, was already ineligible based on his too few years of service.
Allen Baynes is likely to be the Super Bowl LVIII side judge. Jimmy Buchanan and Eugene Hall have received alternate assignments in addition to their Divisional Playoff game, and James Coleman already has a recent Super Bowl under his belt. Baynes has never worked a Super Bowl, and the league will tend to prioritize qualified officials who have not worked a Super Bowl before over those who have.
Back judge Brad Freeman is also likely to take the cake this season, as the remaining 3 Divisional Playoff back judges were alternate back judges in the Wild Card Playoffs.
With that in mind, our likely Super Bowl crew is as follows:
|3 WC, 7 DIV, 6 CCG, XLIX, LIV
|1 WC, 3 DIV
|3 WC, 1 DIV
|7 WC, 12 DIV, 4 CCG, XL, XLIII, XLIX
|9 WC, 4 DIV, 10 CCG, XL, XLIX, LII
|5 WC, 5 DIV, 4 CCG
|5 WC, 4 DIV, 2 CCG