By: Barry Barnes, Founder
Simply put, Ronald Torbert, Craig Wrolstad and Brad Allen will have their hands full this NFL season as newly appointed referees. It’s not because their tasks will be difficult.
NFL officiated games received black eyes from the media and fans due to questionable decision-making and the microscope will be magnified upon the league like never before.
And these three gentlemen welcome this challenge and will give the lenses something to focus on – success.
This is a challenge NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino also embraces as he will review all challenged calls from the centralized location of the command center in New York to assist the referees on questionable situations.
This action by the NFL is just one step to establishing their commitment to making the league’s officiating better after years of scrutiny.
“It’s (critisicm) part of the job. Officiating will always be under scrutiny, and as popular as the NFL is, it is only natural that our game officials are under an intense microscope,” said Blandino. “That’s the challenge that makes it so rewarding.”
Torbert and Wrolstad have been veterans in the league for a number of years. Torbert has officiated as a sideline judge for the past four seasons and Wrolstad has spent the last 11 seasons as a field judge.
They will replace two classy veterans in Ron Winter and Scott Green. Winter walked away from the NFL after 18 seasons, while Green kept a watchful eye on the field for 22 years, including Super Bowls XXXVI (2002), XXXVIII (2004) and XLIV (2010).
Allen will fill the shoes of a rock star referee in Mike Carey. Carey retires after 23 years, as he spent the last 15 seasons as a referee.
The mark of a great referee is determined by how well they observe the competition on the field.
If an official knows that one squad typically plays physical and the other is a finesse team, they will allow the physical opponent to be themselves, within reason. When finesse opponents face off, an official will allow them to be themselves, until the final minutes start to tick and the game will be called a little closer. When physical teams battle, an official will let them go at it, but will throw a flag when something extreme happens.
Carey was that type of referee.
Carey monitored the field well and was not quick to throw his flag. According to Pro-Football Reference.com, Carey, as a referee, has averaged 103.11 yards in flagged penalties per game, which was -0.10 below the league relative average during that same time span. He is probably best known for not blowing the whistle on the most exciting play in Super Bowl history.
In Super Bowl XLII (2007 season), the New York Giants were faced with third-and-long trailing 14-10 to the New England Patriots with nearly a minute left in the title game. Giants quarterback Eli Manning was trapped and grabbed by three Patriots defenders until he broke free and threw a 32-yard pass to wide receiver David Tyree as he leaped for a one-handed catch while pressing the ball against his helmet.
Carey was questi
oned for not blowing the play dead due to an NFL rule which states officials are required to end a play when a player is “in the grasp and control” of the defense. He defended his action and felt Manning was not controlled by the defense. Carey allowed the play to finish and the Giants benefited from his officiating.
Carey retired from the NFL to join CBS Sports as a rules analyst, and Allen will fill the California native shoes.
Allen will throw his flag for the first time this season in the NFL. Nonetheless, he enters the league highly regarded as one of the best officials at the collegiate level.
Allen refereed several major games during his nine year tenure in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including the 2012 Rose Bowl and 2014 Sugar Bowl.
Are these moves by the NFL to promote Torbert and Allen rapidly to the referee position careless? Torbert has been officiating in the NFL for five seasons while many others have been in their stripes for 10 years or more and are still wearing the black hat.
For the record, Winter made his debut in the NFL in 1995 and three years later, he became a referee in 1998. Tommy Bell was hired into the NFL as a referee in 1962 and had a successful 15-year career.
So those decisions worked, answering the question – no.
The NFL hosted their Officiating Clinic in Dallas this weekend and all hands were on deck as the officials received training and discuss all matters concerning officiating. All the referees received their crews.
Due to the Clinic and the officials preparation, success is imminent for Torbert, Wrolstad and Allen. Promoting prepared minds as the season revs up causing their hands to be less full.
“Game officials start to review film of the two teams for their upcoming game during the week prior. The referee will identify certain formations and tendencies that each team presents and puts together a training film for the crew,” said Blandino. “My supervisory staff will also pull plays related to each team for the crew to review.”
“Each crew spends several hours the day before the game breaking down the film as they prepare to officiate.”
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