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John Parry leaves ESPN

Parry will be an officiating liaison with an NFL team



Football Zebras exclusive

Former NFL referee John Parry is leaving his position as a rules analyst for ESPN, in order to take a role as an officiating liaison for an NFL team. Parry had a year remaining on his contract, but the parting was amicable. A network source said they are just beginning the process to find a replacement for Parry.

Parry, in a phone conversation with Football Zebras, said that his next destination will be announced by the team at some point and didn’t want to get ahead of their announcement. In his new job, he will advise the coaching staff of the team on rules matters and replay decisions.

Update 5/13: Parry will join the Buffalo Bills.

A spokesman for ESPN declined to comment.

“Officials look at the game so differently than players, coaches, and fans,” Parry said. “So to have somebody up [in the booth]: Hey, this is the mechanic, this is why that person made that call. And no matter what happens to this replay, if they flip it, here’s where the ball will be spotted. Here’s the down and distance. The clock’s gonna start in the ready for play, or it’s a 10-second runoff, so you could take a timeout. So you better start thinking about that, will you take one? Will you not?”

Parry continued, “There’s so much on the shoulders of coaches as it pertains specifically to replay because it’s grown so much and it is complicated. It’s hard to keep all of that data straight. And I think there’s value to having — I mean, obviously if you’re working for a team, you want to win — but your job is to ensure that they have all the data that they can make the appropriate decision or the decision they want.”

Embed from Getty Images

Parry joined ESPN in 2019, hired on the heels of Super Bowl LIII, the third Super Bowl of his career. At that time, ESPN had parted ways with former referee Jeff Triplette, who spent a season in the Monday Night Football booth in a partial-on-air role.

“I did two decades with the NFL. I love them, loved every aspect of what I did on the field. And when I was 53, I think, at the time was when I hit my second decade of officiating. Had done everything. … I’ve been in the NFL, two decades and three Super Bowls and championships and like, okay, now what?

“And I loved it, but it was odd in the fact that following Super Bowl LIII, ESPN reached out. ‘Would you be interested?’ ”

Parry began as a replay official in the NFL in 1999, the first season in its current challenge-based system. He was moved to side judge in 2000 and then promoted to referee in 2008. He worked Super Bowl XLI as a side judge and XLVI and LIII as a referee. He’s one of seven officials to work a Super Bowl at the referee position after working another Super Bowl at a different field position.

He entered officiating at an early age, thanks to his father, the venerable David Parry, a Big Ten and NFL official. John Parry recalls his father having groups of NFL officials in his home quizzing each other on rules and mechanics as his indispensable guide to the profession. The elder Parry went on to be the Big Ten coordinator of officials and then the national coordinator; an award given to recognize professionalism and leadership of conference coordinators in any division of college football in named for David Parry.

John Parry also worked his way up to the NFL through the Big Ten conference.

Dave and John Parry in 1994 (

A network source said that Parry was well-liked and they were disappointed to see him go. Parry had much the same feelings toward everyone he worked with.

“Top to bottom, they were fabulous, from [ESPN chairman] Jimmy Pitaro all the way to the backend. People that work diligently and do the grind of Monday Night Football in different cities. My time there was fabulous. I love all of them. They treated me well. I got to work with different personalities from Joe Tessitore to Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, [Monday Night] Countdown, and then Joe [Buck] and Troy [Aikman] just watching them do what they do. They’re so good, and it was all positive. I mean, I have nothing but just glowing accolades for the broadcast, the system.”

Parry said that, while he enjoyed his time at ESPN, he was missing something from his officiating days. He also said that at age 59, he feels he’s in “the fourth quarter” of his career.

“Ultimately, I miss being in the game, and I’m hoping that this provides an opportunity to get back in the arena, challenges, wins and losses, all those feelings that you have from doing what we do. With Monday Night Football, it was go do the broadcast, speak to what you need to speak to, and head home. So, I’m looking forward to the off-the-game stuff: preparation, breaking down film, trying to educate players, trying to educate coaches being in the coach’s box, being part of those conversations.”

Parry also said he’s been having conversations with Walt Anderson, the outgoing senior vice president of officiating, on various aspects and interpretations of the new rules passed by owners in March, especially the new kickoff rule.

Did Parry leave the field too soon, perhaps? Did he maybe have a fourth Super Bowl in his future?

“Yeah, I think, but that could have happened, but what I’ve preached to my children, I’m trying to live in the fact that sometimes the easiest decision isn’t the best. It would have been easy to stay on the field. I’m comfortable there. I was decent at my job. I think I could have continued to compete with the other referees for another Super Bowl. All that was easy.

“The taking the analyst role was, ‘wow, this is going to be totally different for me , totally outside my box.’ So there was this/that challenge. As is this. It’s just another change, the easy decision would be stick with Monday Night Football, continue to do what I’m doing. I know that I’m comfortable there.

“This [new opportunity] is outside the comfort zone, which is a good thing. Just provides different ways to fuel the fire inside and so, we’ll see.”

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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  1. Carter Cypher

    May 12, 2024 at 7:29 pm

    Now that Parry is out, I’m sure that ESPN is going to search for a new rules analyst. I’m very curious to see who they get

  2. Anonymous

    June 11, 2024 at 3:18 pm

    Who’s the next Rules analyst

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