NFL announces Clete Blakeman will be Super Bowl 50 ref. He did NE-DAL this year. Here's the full Super Bowl crew pic.twitter.com/xsdKU5ACbf— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) January 27, 2016
Football Zebras' Ben Austro initially reported the news on Jan. 21. The Super Bowl assignment would be the first of Blakeman's career, but his seven-man crew has combined to work four Super Bowls, per Austro.
Peter King of the MMQB provided his take on the NFL's reported decision:
Nice scoop, Ben Austro. I think Blakeman’s a good ref. Good presence. Good control of game. https://t.co/6tf3O5jiNH— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) January 20, 2016
Kevin Seifert of ESPN showed how the number of penalties Blakeman calls compares to other top officials:
Blakeman’s crew is cross-section of highly graded officials. His regular-season crew averaged 15.7 penalties/game. pic.twitter.com/a8Y0ZoorUX— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) January 27, 2016
Most recently, Blakeman served as the head referee for the Arizona Cardinals' NFC Divisional Round playoff win over the Green Bay Packers—a game briefly clouded by controversy.
After quarterback Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary toss landed in the hands of wide receiver Jeff Janis and sent the game to overtime, Blakeman's coin toss in the extra session emerged as a bewildering moment for both teams and fans alike when the coin failed to flip, resulting in a do-over.
NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino noted the situation was a bit unprecedented, but he praised Blakeman's judgment in a crucial moment.
"Although the rulebook doesn't specifically state that it must rotate, I think common sense would dictate that the coin has to flip in order to have a coin toss," Blandino said on NFL Network's NFL Total Access (h/t NFL.com's Dan Hanzus). "I thought (Blakeman) did the best job he could with what he had and common sense would dictate that we would flip it again."
Austro also noted postseason officials are selected by Blandino based on their "top-tier" status stemming from regular-season performance. According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Blakeman threw a career-high 14 flags per game during the 2015 season while assessing an average of 113.19 penalty yards. Those figures did not deviate substantially from league averages.
The Denver Broncos are 5-0 and the Carolina Panthers are 2-2 when Blakeman is the referee, according to David Mullin of BroncosWire.com.
Regardless of which teams emerge as conference champions, Blakeman and his crew will be looking to call a clean game and avoid disputes on the sport's biggest stage.