Gene Steratore, whose use of an index card to measure a first down during a Cowboys-Raiders game in December caused something akin to a stir, has been chosen by the NFL to referee Super Bowl LII. It will be the first Super Bowl assignment for Steratore, who has been an NFL referee since 2006 and has led an officiating crew in 11 playoff games and two conference championship games.
There was nothing specifically prohibiting Steratore from using the index card to determine whether Dallas had achieved a first down in that Dec. 17 game. However, NFL head of officiating Al Riveron later said it was not proper protocol and told his referees not to do it again.
“When he did bring out the piece of paper, that was very, very unusual. The last time I saw it done was about four or five years ago, also in an NFL game, and that’s not the norm. Gene made the decision strictly on visual affirmation that the ball made the line to gain,” Riveron said at the time. “I will advise them not to use it again. I’ve already done that.”
Steratore was on the field for two more the most notable call reversals in recent NFL memory, both involving what constitutes a catch. In 2010, he ruled that Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson lost control of the ball before completing the process of completing the catch on a touchdown that was reversed after replay. Then, in a 2015 second-round playoff game between the Packers and Cowboys, he invoked the same rule to reverse a crucial late-game reception by Dallas wideout Dez Bryant.
To be chosen for the Super Bowl, NFL officials must be rated in the top tier of their positions and have at least five years of NFL experience (they also must have worked playoff games in the past). Steratore will not be working with his usual officiating crew for the Super Bowl. Instead, Roy Ellison (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field judge), Scott Edwards (side judge) and Perry Paganelli (back judge) will fill out his crew. Ellison and Paganelli were part of Steratore’s crew this season, however.
Because a certain segment of the football-watching population will be seeking out this information, point-spread favorites went 8-6-2 against the number while the over went 9-7 in the games refereed by Steratore this season. His crew called 13.94 penalties per game this season, slightly above the NFL average of 13.27, but its 113.63 penalty yards assessed per game was slightly below the league average of 115.08.
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