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Super Bowl 50 referees: Clete Blakeman to be lead official for Panthers-Broncos

The Super Bowl 50 referee crew is official, with Clete Blakeman installed as the referee. Here is a rundown of each official, their experience, and what each job entails.

The Carolina Panthers face the Denver Broncos next week in Super Bowl 50, and we now know the officiating crew for the game. The referee for the game will be Clete Blakeman. Pro Football Reference does strong work putting together a rundown of referee stats and history.

Blakeman has officiated five playoff games, but this is his first Super Bowl appearance. He was an alternate for Super Bowl 48 when the Broncos were last in the Super Bowl. The most interesting piece of information for this decision is that the Broncos have had a lot of success in Blakeman officiated games. Blakeman has been the referee for five Broncos games the last six years, with the most recent coming in 2014. In all five games, the Broncos have won. Clearly that means bet all your money on the Broncos!

According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, Blakeman's regular season crew tied for 12th out of 17 officiating crews with 15.7 penalties per game. This is an "all star" crew however, featuring referees that have normally not worked together. The one exception is Jeff Rice, who was umpire on Blakeman's crew throughout this season.

The full crew for Super Bowl 50 will include the following (years experience, outside job in parenthesis):

R: Clete Blakeman #23 (8, attorney)
U: Jeff Rice #44 (21, attorney)
HL: Wayne Mackie #106 (9, director of operations, housing)
LJ: Rusty Baynes #45 (6, general manager, safety services)
FJ: Boris Cheek #118 (20, director of operations & management)
SJ: Scott Edwards IV #87 (17, environmental engineer)
BJ: Keith Ferguson #112 (16, sales)
Replay official: Charles Stewart
Replay assistant: Jimmy Oldham

The NFL rulebook provides useful definitions for each of the officials. I thought I would break the various job descriptions for each of the members of Clete Blakeman's crew.

Umpire

  • Primary jurisdiction over the equipment and conduct/actions of players on the scrimmage line.
  • The umpire is to assist the Referee on decisions involving possession of the ball in close proximity to the line, after a loose ball or runner has crossed it. The Umpire and the Line Judge are to determine whether ineligible linemen illegally cross the line prior to a pass, and the Umpire must wipe a wet ball in accordance with the proper timing. The Umpire should count the offensive players on the field at the snap.

Linesman:

  • The Linesman operates on the visitor’s side of field designated by the Referee during the first half and on opposite side during the second half unless ordered otherwise.
  • He is responsible for illegal motion, offside, encroaching, and any actions pertaining to scrimmage line prior to or at snap; and for covering in his side zone.
  • The Linesman is to mark with his foot (when up with ball) the yard line touched by forward point of ball at end of each scrimmage down. At the start of each new series of downs, he and the rodmen set the yardage chains when the Referee so signals. He positively must check with the Referee as to the number of each down that is about to start.
  • On his own side, he is to assist the Line Judge as to illegal motion or a shift and umpire in regard to holding or illegal use of hands on end of line (especially during kicks or passes), and know eligible pass receivers.
  • He is to mark out-of-bounds spot on his side of field when within his range and is to supervise substitutions made by team located on his side of field during either half.

Line Judge

  • The Line Judge is to operate on side of field opposite the Linesman.
  • He is responsible for the timing of game. He also is responsible for illegal motion, illegal shift, and for covering in his side zone.
  • On his own side, he is to: (a) assist the Linesman as to offside or encroaching; (b) assist the Umpire as to holding or illegal use of hands on the end of the line (especially during kicks or passes); (c) assist the Referee as to whether a pass is forward or backward behind the line and false starts; and (d) be responsible for knowing the eligible pass receivers. (e) mark the out-of-bounds spot of all plays on his side, when within his range; (f) supervise substitutions made by the team seated on his side of the field during either half; (g) notify the home team head coach with the Field Judge five minutes before the start of the second half.

Field Judge

  • The Field Judge will operate on the same side of the field as Line Judge, 20 yards deep.
  • FJ shall count the number of defensive players on the field at the snap.
  • FJ shall be responsible for all eligible receivers on his side of the field. After receivers have cleared line of scrimmage, FJ will concentrate on action in the area between the Umpire and Back Judge.
  • In addition to the specified use of the whistle by all officials, FJ is also to use his whistle when upon his positive knowledge he knows: (a) that ball is dead; (b) that time is out; (c) that time is out at the end of a down, during which a foul was signaled by a marker, no whistle has sounded in such cases; and (d) that even in the presence of a whistle up or down field, FJ is to sound his whistle when players are some distance from such signal. This will help prevent dead ball fouls.
  • FJ will assist Referee in decisions involving any catching, recovery, out of bounds spot, or illegal touching, of a loose ball, after it has crossed scrimmage line and particularly so for such actions that are out of the range of the Line Judge and Umpire.

Side Judge

  • The Side Judge will operate on the same side of the field as the Head Linesman, 20 yards deep.
  • SJ shall count the number of defensive players on the field at the snap.
  • He shall be responsible for all eligible receivers on his side of the field. After receivers have cleared line of scrimmage, Sj will concentrate on action in the area between the Umpire and Back Judge.
  • In addition to the specified use of the whistle by all officials, SJ is also to use his whistle when upon his positive knowledge he knows: (a) that ball is dead; (b) that time is out; (c) that time is out at the end of a down, during which a foul was signaled by a marker, no whistle has sounded in such cases; and (d) that even in the presence of a whistle up or down field, he is to sound his whistle when players are some distance from such signal. This will help prevent dead ball fouls.
  • SJ will assist Referee in decisions involving any catching, recovery, out of bounds spot, or illegal touching, of a loose ball, after it has crossed scrimmage line and particularly so for such actions that are out of the range of the Head Linesman and Umpire.

Back Judge

  • The Back Judge is primarily responsible in regard to covering kicks from scrimmage (unless a Try-kick) or forward passes crossing the defensive goal line and all such loose balls, out of the range of Umpire, Field Judge, and Linesman, noting an illegal substitution or withdrawal during dead ball with time in, and a foul signaled by a flag or cap during down. He will count defensive team.
  • He is to time the intermission between the two periods of each half, the length of all team timeouts, and the 40/25 seconds permitted Team A to put ball in play. He is to utilize the 40/25 second clock provided by the home team. If this clock is inoperative he should take over the official timing of the 40/25 seconds on the field.
  • In addition to the specified use of the whistle by all officials, the Back Judge is also to use his whistle, when upon his own positive knowledge he knows: (a) that ball is dead; (b) time is out; or (c) is out at end of down, during which a foul was signaled by a flag or cap, and no whistle has sounded in such cases. Even in the presence of a whistle upfield, he is to sound his when downfield players are some distance away from such signal, and in order to prevent dead ball fouls. He should be particularly alert for item (c).
  • He shall assist the Referee in decisions involving any catching, recovery, out- of-bounds spot, or illegal touching, of a loose ball, after it has crossed scrimmage line and particularly so for such actions as are out of the range of the Field Judge, Linesman, and Umpire. He should count the defensive players on the field at the snap.
  • The Back Judge has the absolute responsibility: (a) to instruct kicker and/or placekicker that "kickoff" must be made by placekick or dropkick. (b) that the height of the tee (artificial or natural) used for the kickoff conforms to the governing rules.