The NFL announced the officials for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, and there’s one notable name at the referee position — Gene Steratore.
What’s the significance of Steratore? Well, earlier this season he was on the officiating crew that measured a first down with a folded index card.
The Cowboys and Raiders were tied 17 with the Cowboys facing a fourth-and-1 on their own 39-yard line with 5:06 to go in the game. Dak Prescott ran a sneak, and the spot was so close that it was impossible to tell if he got the first down, even with the chains.
So Steratore put a folded index card between the ball and stick, and they touched, indicating a first down:
Steratore is an experienced postseason official. He has officiated 11 playoff games, including two conference championships.
There have been other big games that he’s officiated.
Remember that time Calvin Johnson first got us rolling on the catch rule in 2010? That was a Steratore game, and it started the conversation that still continues today on what exactly is a catch and what isn’t.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the last time that Steratore would be involved in a game with some catch-rule funny business. In the 2014 postseason, he officiated the Cowboys-Packers game in which Dez Bryant was involved in a controversial non-catch ruling.
So what does this mean for the Super Bowl?
Probably nothing. The NFL only puts the most experienced and highest-scoring officials in the biggest sporting event of the year.
Under the NFL officiating program’s evaluation system, officials must be rated in the top tier at their position to be eligible for the Super Bowl. They must have at least five years of NFL experience and previous playoff assignments.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we won’t see something go off the rails in the Super Bowl. Because in those games, Steratore and his crews made the correct calls by rule, but it doesn’t make the rules good.
This will be Steratore’s first Super Bowl.
Steratore is heading the officiating crew, which also consists of umpire Roy Ellison, down judge Jerry Bergman, line judge Byron Boston, field judge Tom Hill, side judge Scott Edwards, and back judge Perry Paganelli.