NFL keeps losing refs as Gene Steratore becomes fourth official to retire in 2018

After 15 years as an NFL official, it looks like referee Gene Steratore has decided to hang up his whistle for good. 

The NFL's vice president of officiating, Al Riveron, announced on Friday that Steratore has decided to retire. Of course, Riveron is probably used to making retirement announcements at this point, because that's basically all he's been doing this offseason. Steratore becomes the fourth referee to retire this offseason, which is notable, because the NFL only had a total of 17 lead referees during the 2017 regular season. That means the league is going to be forced to replace nearly 25 percent of its refs heading into the upcoming season. 

Besides Steratore, the NFL has also lost lost Ed Hochuli, Jeff Triplette and Terry McAulay, who all decided to retire this offseason. A big reason so many refs are jumping ship this year is because there's now ample opportunity for them to make money in TV. Both Triplette and McAulay have already lined up TV jobs, with Triplette headed to ESPN's Monday Night Football and McAulay headed to NBC for Sunday Nigh Football, according to ESPN.com

As for Steratore, although it's not clear if he has a TV job in his future, it wouldn't be surprising to see him make that move, and that's because he's regularly been one of the NFL's best officials. As a matter of fact, Steratore graded so highly in 2017 that he was named the referee for Super Bowl LII, which will now go down as his final game as an NFL ref. 

Over his 15-year career, Steratore worked a total of 12 playoff games, including the Super Bowl. Besides Super Bowl LII, there's a good chance that you remember at least one other playoff game where Steratore was the ref: Cowboys-Packers. Yup, Steratore was the referee for the infamous "Dez Caught It" game, where Dez didn't actually catch it -- or maybe he did, I'm still not sure. 

Steratore was also the ref for one of the oddest moments of the NFL 2017 season. During a game against the Cowboys and Raiders, Steratore gave Dallas a first down late in the game, but only after using a note card to help him with the measurement. 

Steratore originally entered the NFL as a field judge in 2003, before being promoted to referee in 2006. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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