Luckily, the NFL referee lockout is now over. The “real” officials are back on the field because a deal reached Wednesday between the NFL and the referee’s union, the NFLRA. We all owe Ed Hochuli, an NFL ref, for making sure that we didn’t see any more of the farce that was the NFL replacement refs.
On September 14, 2008, Hochuli was officiating a game between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers. With his team down by seven late, Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back and the ball slipped from his grasp and the
Chargers recovered it. Hochuli ruled it an incomplete pass on the field. Upon further review, it was actually a fumble. Hochuli didn’t give possession to the Chargers because the play had been ruled dead when Hochuli blew the whistle. This “inadvertent whistle” ruling gave the ball back to Denver and they scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to win.
The blown call unleashed a firestorm of personal attacks against Hochuli. The best NFL officials are the ones that fans don’t even notice. Hochuli’s missed call thrust him into the public spotlight and scrutiny.
Ed Hochuli has since redeemed himself. He saved America’s most popular sport by doing what he does best: make calls.
Hochuli is perhaps the most versed in the complicated NFL rulebook. His explanations of calls during games can sometimes resemble a State of the Union Address by the president, but Ed wanted to make sure the rest of the refs were just as knowledgeable about the rulings as he is.
Throughout the lockout, Hochuli put himself in charge of preparing the referees for when they got their jobs back. According to Peter King of “Sports Illustrated,” Hochuli would have conference calls with the other officials every Tuesday night to discuss rules. He also gave each official a rules test every week and then would go over the results and answers during the Tuesday calls. This preparation in the lockout has allowed the regular officials to hit the ground running. Hochuli saved all of us from 1-3 miserable weeks of ref preparation after the lockout ended.
So thank you, Ed, for taking it upon yourself to bring order, control and the professional “zebras” back to Sunday afternoons. The stripes you wear are the ones we have been waiting to see the most. May I be one of the many to say, “Thank you, Mr. Hochuli, for saving the sanity of the NFL.”