Power Ranking Every Head NFL Official

Scott CarasikContributor IIDecember 5, 2012

Power Ranking Every Head NFL Official

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    There are 18 head officials in the NFL. They range from absolutely amazing to positively horrific. As a way to figure out who is who, we power ranked them from best to worst.

    So let's explore the 18 head referees in the NFL. In ranking them from 1-18, there were some that even surprised myself as to how high or low they wound up. Of course, the usual suspects are near the top and bottom, but toward the middle it tends to get cloudy.

    As part of the power rankings, each referee will be given a competence-level grade as well. From best to worst:

     

    Super Bowl Caliber

    Who you want reffing if your team is in the Super Bowl. The calls will be fair and balanced. Also, he will be the most accurate when it comes to rules and tries to minimize any controversy.

     

    Playoff Caliber

    When your team makes the playoffs, you want this guy to ref your games because he's fair and balanced. He just may not be perfect in memorizing every rule.

     

    NFL Average

    What the minimum NFL standard should be for a referee. Sometimes is a little bit biased, but for the most part is balanced and will make accurate calls.

     

    Replacement-Level

    Remember the replacement refs? Yeah, there's a few on that same caliber.

     

    Below Replacement-Level

    There are also a couple who are below replacement refs.

18) Jeff Triplette

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    From bizarre false-start penalties to completely making up rules on the fly, Jeff Triplette has shown time and time again that he is the most incompetent official in the NFL. 

    From a Peyton Manning fake spike that Triplette actually called a spike to a play where he got knocked down and his nose bloodied, Triplette has shown that he is by far a complete train wreck of an NFL referee.

    To top it all off, Triplette is directly responsible for nearly blinding Orlando Brown with a penalty flag and eventually shaving three full years off of his playing career due to temporary blindness in that eye. Out of all the bad referees in the NFL, Triplette is worse than even the worst replacement ref.

     

    Competence Level — Below Replacement-Level

17) Jerome Boger

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    Jerome Boger has been so bad that my friends and I refer to him as "the booger." His calls have been repeatedly incorrect against the rule books. To make it worse, his attempts to explain the penalties he dishes out make Jeff Triplette sound like a Rhodes Scholar in comparison.

    "Fair and balanced" aren't words that would describe him either. He is regularly seen making questionable calls toward one side or another in an attempt to gain notoriety for his refs. When players high five you after a game, your integrity will be called into question.

    Jerome Boger is the only other ref in the NFL that is below replacement-level. The big issue here is that when you have 18 refs and no more than 16 games, why are Boger and Triplette even allowed to work on Sundays?

     

    Competence Level — Below Replacement-Level

16) Walt Coleman

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    Despite having a longer resume of controversial calls than the previous two, Walt Coleman still deserves to be on the field. But it's only by default. He's by far one of the few referees who can make a call correctly and still look like an absolute imbecile doing so.

    He's been involved in the 2001 "Tuck Rule" call that propelled the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory—something that has prevented him from working another Raiders game. He also made plenty of non-calls in the 2003 AFC Championship Game where Patriots defenders harassed Colts receivers downfield despite the five-yard cushion rule being in effect.

    He's also created a gem of a situation that is the Houston-Detroit Thanksgiving Day call earlier this year. It was where Justin Forsett was down on a run, but got back up and ran for a touchdown because no whistle was blown.

    However, because Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag there was no review and a 15-yard penalty was tacked on. So while Coleman doesn't make calls that are bad when looking at the actual rule book, he doesn't properly explain why the calls are what they are in the first place.

     

    Competence Level — Replacement-Level

15) Terry McAulay

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    Despite being a referee for both Super Bowl 39 and Super Bowl 43, Terry McAuley has proven that he is barely as competent as a replacement-level official. Super Bowl 43 was one of the more unbalanced games in Super Bowl history. 

    Then, to top it all off, he was responsible for "Bottlegate." During the 2001 season in a game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns, there was a question regarding the replay of a 4th-and-1 call. McAulay famously flubbed a replay situation where a ball was spiked after a conversion.

    Once the call was finally overturned, the fans in the stands showered the field with glass bottles. McAulay's abilities have never recovered since this particular incident and he fits into the bottom four. However, he's still way better than the previous three gentlemen.

     

    Competence Level — Replacement-Level

14) Bill Vinovich

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    Bill Vinovich is only listed this low because he doesn't have a proven track record of any sort since returning earlier this season. He's currently the substitute referee—meaning he only is an on-field head referee for three or four games in a given season.

    While his previous experience from 2001-2006 was excellent, he's been out of officiating the past five years with medical issues. Vinovich is still a good referee, but these days he tends to spend more time as a replay official than an on-field referee.

     

    Competence Level — NFL Average

13) Clete Blakeman

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    Clete Blakeman is currently the 17th man of the rotation for the NFL's referees. He's not perfect when he's on the field. However, when he does get on the field, he's no better or worse than the average NFL referee.

    It's just a shame that he is getting stuck as the last man on the totem pole refereeing basically during the referees' bye weeks.

    He definitely deserves to have more time on the field when the likes of Jerome Boger and Jeff Triplette are becoming regulars in the "Adventures in Officiating" articles by Shutdown Corner at Yahoo! Sports.

     

    Competence Level — NFL Average

12) Pete Morelli

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    When a referee's poor calls and inconclusive calls have lead to a rule change and blatantly being called out for helping the Colts win the 2006 AFC conference title, there is question as to whether Pete Morelli deserves to referee games of that magnitude.

    Based on one of his poor calls on a field goal attempt by Phil Dawson in a 2007 Browns-Ravens matchup, the NFL had to change the rules for replay on field goals to allow all field goals to be reviewable at the end of games.

    He has multiple terrible calls throughout the years. However, he is able to mask them with legitimate calls and great performances. He just needs to be more consistent before he would get upgraded to a possible single digit ranking.

     

    Competence Level — NFL Average

11) Scott Green

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    Scott Green is famous for a 2003 call in a San Francisco 49ers-New York Giants Wild Card Playoff game that Paul Tagliabue deemed to be "the most disappointing officiating blunder he'd seen in his 13 years as NFL commissioner" (h/t CNNSI.com's Peter King).

    Green was the back judge on the play and lost track of the fact that a Giants offensive lineman was an eligible receiver on the play and flagged them for ineligible man down field. The bigger issue here is that it wasn't his only mistake.

    He's regularly known for calling unbalanced games and will call ticky-tack stuff on one side while not calling anything on the other. However, he's still fair for the most part and calls the majority of his games down the middle. Which makes him at least an NFL average referee.

     

    Competence Level — NFL Average

10) Bill Leavy

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    I didn't want to put Bill Leavy in the top 10. However, his experience in Super Bowl XL shouldn't drag him down to the Jerome Boger and Jeff Triplette levels of awfulness. Almost every game he has refereed before and after that game show a level of utmost professionalism.

    Nonetheless, a screw-up at the Super Bowl only shows that the man cannot handle the pressure of big games and should only call the games throughout the regular season.

    During the regular season, Bill Leavy has been all but flawless. Yet when he has to make calls in playoff games, it just feels like he has too much pressure put on him and caves. In order to be in the top eight, he has to be able to referee in the playoffs with the same efficiency he does in the regular season—something he has yet to do.

     

    Competence Level — NFL Average

9) Carl Cheffers

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    Carl Cheffers is one of the more underrated referees in the NFL. While others get noticed for their achievements, Cheffers just grinds it out weekly as one of the better workers in the referee fraternity. 

    He's only in his fifth year in his tenure as a head NFL referee. His inexperience is both good and bad as he doesn't have much of a resume to go off of either way. The middling grade feels about right considering how little is actually known of his ability.

    The best thing that I can honestly say about Cheffers is that when he made the intentional grounding call in a San Francisco-St. Louis game this season, it was the first questionable call that I've seen him make. And that says a lot about where this league is headed if he is at No. 9 and is still considered a good referee.

     

    Competence Level — NFL Average

8) Tony Corrente

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    As one of the most experienced referees on this list, Tony Corrente has proven to be a top notch official throughout his entire tenure. He's refereed at least a dozen of playoff games and has even refereed Super Bowl XLI. 

    He's part of the proof that it's easy to have anyone call games. He's been doing it for over a decade and has yet to have a controversial call. However, he does have a small controversy surrounding his demeanor on the field.

    Corrente accidentally bypassed sensors screaming obscenities in a November 4, 2012 game between the Colts and the Miami Dolphins. Overall though, he's definitely a playoff-caliber referee and belongs in the top eight.

     

    Competence Level — Playoff Caliber

7) Alberto Riveron

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    The head ref of the 2012 AFC Championship Game, Alberto Riveron has shown throughout the past few years that he is more than worthy of his role as a head ref. While he has yet to call the big game, he is looking like the man who could be fast tracking to the Super Bowl this year.

    He's an extremely efficient and fair referee and shows the positive side of the NFL referee situation. It's tough to separate him over Corrente and Cheffers as they are all three excellently anonymous officials.

    However, when you watch Riveron, only one major criticism pops to mind and it's his excessive amount of roughing the passer penalties called. Sometimes you have to just have to let the players play.

     

    Competence Level — Playoff Caliber

6) Ron Winter

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    Ron Winter was the lead referee for the 2003 Wild Card playoff game between the Giants and 49ers that was deemed as ending on the worst call of all time. However, since that call, Winter has been relatively anonymous.

    Being anonymous is an amazing thing for an NFL referee. Though in watching him referee games in the NFC South the past four years, there are only a few times when he has made small errors. But he's also not in the top three either.

    His errors were mainly non-calls. And when the errors are non-calls, I'm not going to fault a man for doing his job but still letting the players play. Winter is someone that I would trust as a playoff referee if my team was in the playoffs, but I can't say the same about a Super Bowl because of the 2003 game even now.

     

    Competence Level — Playoff Caliber

5) Walt Anderson

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    Walt Anderson is an extremely efficient and fair referee and opens the top five. He is just a small step back from the top three. He's been the head referee in two Super Bowls and hasn't been the center of any major controversies. 

    Considering we normally only think of referees for what they mess up, it's hard to not think of Anderson as a great referee. The only thing that holds back Anderson from being moved up higher on the list is his ability to explain why something is or isn't the right call.

    But for the most part, it's safe to say that Anderson is and will continue to be a great, controversy free official similar to the people who are ahead of him.

     

    Competence Level — Playoff Caliber

4) Jon Parry

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    Jon Parry has been an official in a Super Bowl but never the head official. Honestly, he should be. Much like the men above him on this list, he is easily a top notch referee, and the only thing that holds him back is a lack of experience.

    Ever since taking over as a full-time head referee in the 2007 NFL season, Parry hasn't been at the center of any huge controversies regarding his officiating. He's one of the more balanced referees and knows the rule book extremely well as seen in the flags he picks up and the explanations behind them.

    Eventually, Parry will be regarded as in the same tier as the top three guys. But for now, he should just enjoy his relative anonymity as a hard-working ref who does his job and goes home.

     

    Competence Level — Super Bowl Caliber

3) Ed Hochuli

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    Ed "Hochules" Hochuli has always been one of the top three refs in the NFL. This ranking may even look low to the Hochuli fans out there. However, just keep in mind that any of the top three are refs that I would love to have in charge of the game if my team is in the Super Bowl.

    Hochuli is a great ref and has always shown to be impartial. He's also a bit of a perfectionist, as you can see from this epically perfect explanation of the new overtime system.

    Yet when he blows a call, he hates it, as evidenced from the aftermath of a 2008 blown call in a San Diego-Denver game where he felt remorseful and took accountability for screwing up.

    The head of the NFL Referee's Association for years, Hochuli was crucial to getting rid of the replacement refs through negotiations this year. And we thank him for that, as he is easily in the NFL's top three.

     

    Competence Level — Super Bowl Caliber

2) Mike Carey

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    For all the grief that he has gotten throughout his career, Mike Carey truly is one of the best refs in the NFL. He's one of the two senior referees with Walt Coleman and has been the main leader of the current referees unit. 

    His calls are fair and balanced, and he's perfectly clear in his explanations. This is kind of like beating a dead horse, as Carey is already renowned around the league as one of the top refs. The only issue that keeps him from the No. 1 spot for me is his explanations can come off as a bit long-winded.

     

    Competence Level — Super Bowl Caliber

1) Gene Steratore

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    Slowly and quietly, Gene Steratore has worked his way up to becoming not just a great NFL referee but the absolute best in the business. While Mike Carey and Ed Hochuli are the gold standard, Steratore rises up a rung even over those two.

    He's known for making great explanations on the field of each and every call. He also will step back and explain a play even if there wasn't a flag or a challenge flag on it just to make sure that there is no controversy.

    Add in that his only questionably controversial call is a 2010 Calvin Johnson touchdown that he overruled, and it's easy to see why I have him rated so high. That call is the epitome of Gene Steratore. His explanation of the call included a quote directly from the rule book. 

    It was so well-versed that people were calling for the NFL to change the rule. When you can make a controversial albeit correct call but still have no heat put on you, that's just talent as an official. His well-respected nature and by-the-book attitude make Steratore the best referee in the NFL.

     

    Competence Level — Super Bowl Caliber


    All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium StatsESPN.com, CFBStats.com or NFL.com. 

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.