Who Are the NFL's Best, Worst Refs?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IDecember 11, 2013

Who Are the NFL's Best, Worst Refs?

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    The reputation of NFL referees has seen better days. 

    During the 2013 season, we've witnessed a variety of blown and missed calls in live action, and there have even been a few instances in which officiating crews have seemingly made incorrect rulings after going under the hood to review plays.

    During this season filled with officiate controversy, let's rank all the current head referees on this scale: 

    Super Bowl caliber 
    Playoff caliber 
    NFL average
    Replacement level

Jeff Triplette

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    Background info

    Triplette graduated from Wake Forest University and is a retired Army Reserve colonel. He received a Bronze Star for his service in the Persian Gulf War. He is the current President and CEO of ArbiterSports, a website that helps assign officials to sports teams and leagues. 

    From 2007 to 2009, Triplette was the President and COO of FNC, a mortgage lending corporation. 

     

    NFL experience

    18 years. He began his NFL career as a field judge in 1996 and became a referee in 1999.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    2007-2008 AFC Championship Game, San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots

     

    Most controversial call

    Overturning the initial call on BenJarvus Green-Ellis' touchdown run in the Cincinnati Bengals' Week 14 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Replay showed that the running back was clearly touched before falling to the ground.

     

    Quality

    Replacement level

Walt Coleman

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    Background info

    Coleman's an Arkansas native and operates his family dairy business when not officiating NFL games.

     

    NFL experience

    25 years. He started as a line judge in the NFL before making the jump to referee in 1995

     

    Biggest game officiated

    2001-2002 AFC Championship Game, Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots

     

    Most controversial call

    Tuck Rule.

     

    Quality

    Replacement level

Scott Green

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    Background info

    Green is Pennsylvania native who now resides in Virginia. From 1985 to 1990, Green was a Judiciary Committee staff member for Senator Joe Biden. Outside of his NFL work, he operates the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm he founded for criminal justice in 1994.

     

    NFL experience

    23 years. He began his professional football officiating career in 1991 as a field judge. In 2005, Green became a full-time head referee.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XLIV, Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints

     

    Most controversial call

    Missed defensive pass interference on field-goal attempt in the final seconds of the 2003 wild-card game between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Giants guard Rich Seubert was an eligible receiver on the play, as he lined up in a receiver's spot.  

    New York botched the hold on the field-goal attempt, and Seubert ran downfield to potentially catch a pass. He was dragged to the ground by a San Francisco defender, which should have resulted in pass interference; however, Green flagged the Giants for an illegal man downfield, which was the incorrect ruling.

    Green was the back judge for that game, meaning the interference occurred in the area of the field he was assigned to cover. 

     

    Quality

    Replacement level

Bill Vinovich

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    Background info

    Vinovich also serves as a NCAA basketball referee and is a CPA in the offseason.

     

    NFL experience

    9 years. He started as a side judge before his promotion to referee in 2004.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    2012-2013 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

     

    Most controversial call

    Overturned fumble recovery in Week 9 of 2013 Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans. Keshawn Martin fumbled a kick return, and the officials ruled Indianapolis recovered.

    After review, Vinovich and his crew decided the Texans should get the ball because Colts' special teamer LaVon Brazill touched the ball when he was out of bounds.

    According to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, after the game, the NFL informed Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano that the call shouldn't have been overturned.   

     

    Quality

    NFL average

Terry McAulay

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    McAulay is a Louisiana native but currently lives in Maryland. He is the coordinator of football officials for the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East). He's held that position since 2008. He refereed in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) from 1994 to 1997.

     

    NFL experience

    16 years. McAulay started in the NFL in 1998 as a side judge and became a referee in 2001. 

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XLIII, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals

     

    Most controversial call

    Bottlegate. During a 2001 game between the Cleveland Browns and the Jacksonville Jaguars, down 15-10 in the fourth quarter, Browns receiver Quincy Morgan caught a pass for a first down on 4th-and-1.

    Quarterback Tim Couch spiked the ball to stop the clock, but McAulay deemed even after that play, Morgan's catch needed to be reviewed. He ruled that Morgan never had control of the ball on fourth down, and the Jaguars were given the ball.

    Fans in Cleveland subsequently threw beer bottles onto the field to show their displeasure with the overturned call. 

     

    Quality level

    NFL average

Jerome Boger

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    Background info

    Boger played football at Morehouse College in Atlanta and graduated in 1977. After 11 years officiating in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, he spent five seasons officiating in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

    When he's not working NFL games, Boger is an underwriter for Allstate Insurance in Atlanta.

     

    NFL experience

    10 years. He started in the NFL in 2004 and became a head referee in 2006. He also refereed in the Arena League and NFL Europe.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers

     

    Most controversial call

    In Week 7 of 2013, in a game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, a member of Boger's crew called a penalty on Patriots' defensive tackle Chris Jones for pushing his teammate on a potentially game-winning field-goal attempt by Jets kicker Nick Folk. 

    Although Boger didn't make the call, he and his crew deemed that Jones committed an infraction. 

     

    Quality

    NFL average

Pete Morelli

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    David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    Morelli is a California native and is the principal of Saint Mary's High School in Stockton, Calif. He worked in the WAC and Big East before his NFL career.

     

    NFL experience

    17. years. He began as a back judge in 1997 and was promoted to referee before the 2003 season.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XXXVI, St. Louis Rams vs. New England Patriots

     

    Most controversial call

    Overturned call in 2005-06 AFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts. Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu intercepted a Peyton Manning pass but fumbled the ball almost immediately afterward. He recovered his own fumble and it was initially ruled that Pittsburgh gained possession. 

    After Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy challenged the ruling, Morelli overturned the call on the field with the justification that Polamalu never completed the catch; therefore, it was incomplete. 

     

    Quality level

    NFL average

Bill Leavy

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    Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    A native of California who's now retired from law enforcement, he served as a member of the San Jose Police Department for 27 years.

     

    NFL experience

    19 years. He worked as a back and field judge from 1995 to 2000, then Leavy was promoted to referee before the 2001 season.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super XL, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks

     

    Most controversial call

    Leavy and his crew were criticized for a variety of pro-Steelers calls in Super Bowl XL. On a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown run near the end of the second quarter, one of Leavy's linesman ruled the Pittsburgh quarterback had scored. 

    Upon reviewing the play, it appeared as though Roethlisberger was stopped short of the end zone, but Leavy did not overturn the call, and the touchdown stood. 

     

    Quality level

    NFL average

Clete Blakeman

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    Background info

    Blakeman played collegiate football at the University of Nebraska from 1983 to 1987, and he started officiating in the Big 12 Conference.

     

    NFL experience

    6 years. He began as a field judge in the NFL and moved to referee for the 2010 season.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    2011-2012 AFC wild-card game, Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

     

    Most controversial call

    In Week 11 of 2013 during the Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers, Tom Brady threw a pass in the direction of tight end Rob Gronkowski on the final play of the fourth quarter while trailing. 

    The pass was intercepted by safety Robert Lester, but Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly appeared to be holding Gronkowski. Initially, a flag was thrown, but after a quick huddle, Blakeman and his crew deemed that the under-thrown pass was uncatchable, thereby nullifying the penalty. 

     

    Quality

    NFL average

Ron Winter

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    Background info

    Winter, a Michigan native, was a physical education professor at Western Michigan University until he retired after the 2007-08 school year. He officiated at the collegiate level before the NFL.

     

    NFL experience

    19 years. He started as a line judge in 1995 and was promoted to referee in 1998.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    2009-2010 NFC Divisional Playoff Game, Arizona Cardinals vs. New Orleans Saints

     

    Most controversial call

    During the 2002-03 wild-card playoff game, Winter was involved in the same missed pass interference call on a botched field-goal attempt for which Scott Green is infamous. 

     

    Quality

    NFL average

Carl Cheffers

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    Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    Cheffers began officiating in the Pac-10 Conference in 1995 and was hired by the NFL five years later. His father also had an officiating background.

     

    NFL experience

    14 years. He started as a side judge then being promoted in 2008 to a referee spot. 

     

    Biggest game officiated

    2011-12 NFC wild-card game, Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants

     

    Most controversial call

    In Week 13 of 2012 during a game between the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams, Cheffers ruled that Colin Kaepernick committed an intentional grounding infraction in the end zone, and he awarded the Rams with a two-point safety. 

    Cheffers deemed that Kaepernick's pass did not pass the line of scrimmage, while replays showed it did. 

     

    Quality

    Playoff caliber

Walt Anderson

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    Anderson was born in Florida but raised in Texas. He received his bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State and earned a Doctorate in Dentistry in 1978.

     

    NFL experience

    18 years. When he was promoted to referee in 2003, he retired from the dental profession. 

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers

     

    Most controversial call

    In Week 8 of 2013 during a game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, Dolphins defender Jimmy Wilson forced Tom Brady to fumble. Olivier Vernon nearly recovered the football on the ground, but he couldn't fall on it. The ball shot forward 14 yards before the Patriots' offensive tackle Nate Solder recovered it.

    Anderson and his crew called a penalty on Vernon for intentionally advancing the ball.

    Instead of a 22-yard loss, New England actually gained 10 yards on the odd play.

     

    Quality level

    Playoff caliber 

Ed Hochuli

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    Background info

    Hochuli was born in Wisconsin but currently resides in Arizona. He played college football at the University of Texas El Paso. Outside of his NFL job, Hochuli is a trial lawyer, which he's been since 1983.

     

    NFL experience

    24 years. In 1990, he was hired by the NFL as a field judge, and he was promoted to referee in 1992.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XXXVIII, New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers 

     

    Most controversial call

    In Week 2 of 2009 during the final seconds of a game between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers, trailing by seven points, Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler rolled to his right near at the Chargers' 1-yard line. 

    When Cutler began to attempt a pass, the ball fell out of his hands. San Diego linebacker Tim Dobbins recovered the fumble, which would have ended the game; however, Hochuli ruled Cutler's fumble an incomplete pass and the play was not reviewable. 

    TV viewers saw an assortment of replays that showed Culter had indeed fumbled. 

     

    Quality level

    Super Bowl caliber

John Parry

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    Parry is an Indiana native who now resides in Ohio. When not officiating NFL games, he's a financial advisor for Ameriprise Financial.  

     

    NFL experience

    14 years. He began as a side judge in the NFL in 2000 and was promoted to referee before the 2007 season. 

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XLVI, New York Giants vs. New England Patriots

     

    Most controversial call

    Super Bowl XLVI began with a safety as Parry ruled from his end zone that Tom Brady committed an intentional grounding penalty when his pass sailed over the middle and didn't land near any Patriots receivers. 

     

    Quality level

    Super Bowl caliber

Mike Carey

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    Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    Carey was a running back at Santa Clara University and currently resides in California. In 1979, he and his wife, Wendy, founded Serius Innovation, a company that makes ski and snowboarding apparel.

     

    NFL experience

    24 years. In 1990, Carey was hired as a side judge, and he was promoted to referee in 1995.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XLII, New England Patriots vs. New York Giants

     

    Most controversial call

    The David Tyree catch. According to NFL rules, a play is supposed to be blown dead if a player is in "the grasp and controlled" by an opponent. Although three New England defenders essentially had Eli Manning wrapped up, Carey didn't blow the whistle, which allowed the miraculous play to occur. 

     

    Quality level

    Super Bowl caliber

Tony Corrente

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    Corrente lives in California and teaches social sciences at La Miranda High School when he's not refereeing NFL games. In 1991, he became an officiating staff member of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). 

     

    NFL experience

    19 years. He started his NFL career in 1995 as a back judge and was promoted to referee before the 1998 season.  

     

    Biggest game officiated

    Super Bowl XLI, Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts

     

    Most controversial call

    In Week 13 of 2013 during a game between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints, 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked quarterback Drew Brees, which resulted in a fumble that San Francisco defender Patrick Willis recovered. 

    Corrente ruled that Brooks' hit was near Brees' neck and head, thereby nullifying the fumble and awarding the Saints with a first down. 

     

    Quality level

    Super Bowl caliber

Gene Steratore

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Background info

    Steratore is a Pennsylvania native. He also officiates NCAA basketball games, which he's been doing since 1997. Outside of his work as an NFL referee, he owns a sanitary supply company in Washington, Penn., with his brothers.

     

    NFL experience

    11 years. He began as a a field judge and moved into a referee role for the 2006 season.

     

    Biggest game officiated

    2010-2012 AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game, New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts

     

    Most controversial call 

    Calvin Johnson Call. In Week 1 of the 2010 season during a game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, Lions wideout Calvin Johnson caught what was ruled a touchdown, a score that would have won the game for Detroit. 

    After reviewing the play, however, Steratore deemed that Johnson had not completed the catch and ruled the pass incomplete.

     

    Quality level

    Super Bowl caliber