Did the NFL Make a Mistake Assigning Referee Jerome Boger to Super Bowl XLVII?

John RozumCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2013

Oct 14, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; NFL referee Jerome Boger (23) during a game between the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

You know that Super Bowl XLVII between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers is a big deal when the NFL is criticized about the chosen head referee.

First, according to NFL.com:

Referee Jerome Boger will lead the seven-man crew of game officials selected to work Super Bowl XLVII this Sunday between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the NFL announced Wednesday.

Secondly, per Sam Borden of the New York Times:

Jerome Boger, an N.F.L. referee for seven years, will lead the crew of officials here Sunday. Historically, that means Boger scored the highest among referees during the standard postgame evaluations — a notion that some observers and, privately, several other on-field officials find hard to comprehend.

“What’s happening right now is that the best officials are not working the best games,” said Jim Daopoulos, who worked 11 years as an on-field official and 12 years as a supervisor of officials before becoming an officiating analyst for NBC.

So, is assigning Boger a mistake by the NFL?

Well, let's dive deeper into the situation. For one, it does make for an intriguing approach to Super Sunday leading to kickoff. It's set up to be quite an ironic finish for the league.

The replacement referees lasted three weeks into the regular season, and it was complete chaos. We've all seen better control from security personnel inside the mosh pit at rock concerts.

At the time, the players' safety was really at stake because the replacement refs simply couldn't keep up with the game. Factor in a number of botched calls, and ultimately it cost the Green Bay Packers a victory.

With regard to the Super Bowl, Boger was not the most efficient official throughout the 2012 regular season. As Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports wrote last week:

The website footballzebras.com reported that Boger received eight downgrades during the 2012 season and all eight were reversed. Multiple sources with knowledge of the grading system made the same claim to Yahoo! Sports.

Though officials who spoke to Yahoo! Sports say Boger is far from the worst official in the game, they question his assignment to this year's Super Bowl.

"[Boger] shouldn't even be eligible for the game," one said. "Everybody basically knows what's happening. You see when grades appear, and when grades mysteriously disappear. Any incorrect call or missed call will disappear for no reason at all."

Boger has worked three divisional playoff games as a referee in nine years, the third of those coming earlier this month. He's never worked in a conference championship game or Super Bowl in any capacity.

Therefore, if we're to blame anyone, it has to be Roger Goodell and the league—as usual.

This is not Boger's fault, because he and his crew did the best job as professional referees. And just as difficult as it is for players to maintain elite consistency on an annual basis, the same can be said for officials as well.

Boger, however, has only been an NFL ref since 2004, which is quite limited in experience compared to Mike Carey, Ed Hochuli, Jeff Triplette and Ron Winter. Now, obviously no experience can be acquired without having been given the opportunity to officiate the big game.

But Boger has yet to referee a conference championship game.

You would think that is a prerequisite for the Super Bowl, right? Not entirely.

Courtesy of Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, the NFL provided its Super Bowl requirements. Let's look at the part involving conference title games:

Has worked Conference Championship & Wild Card/Divisional Playoff; or three Wild Card/Divisional Playoffs in past five years (not including current).

So technically, a referee need not officiate a conference title game to be eligible for the Super Bowl. Although prior postseason experience is certainly expected, those games that decide who represents the AFC and NFC are obviously quite important.

Unsurprisingly, the NFL just doesn't see it the same way. Otherwise, experience at every playoff round would be needed for each subsequent round, with the exception of the Wild Card since it kicks off the postseason.

Back to the question at hand: Was assigning Boger a mistake? Yes, but let's hope to be proven wrong on Sunday.

Certainly, we must believe Boger and his crew will officiate a great game.

The less controversy surrounding the outcome will only better the game. The last thing pro football needs is an uproar comparable to what transpired after Super Bowl XL between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.

It's simply too difficult for NFL fans, though—especially those residing in Baltimore and San Francisco—to hold confidence given pro football's Super Bowl referee selection procedure. 

Also, aren't there already enough stories surrounding this game?

Ray Lewis quickly comes to mind regarding the accused usage of PEDs, via David Epstein and George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated.

Factor in the 49ers going for a record-tying sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy (Steelers) and the head coaching brothers John and Jim Harbaugh, and the concern of Boger officiating simply amplifies the magnitude of Super Bowl XLVII to an unimaginable level.