The Detroit Lions can’t seem to escape playing in games that end in referee scrutiny. After the Brad Allen debacle in Dallas, the Lions drew Craig Wrolstad—a 10-year veteran referee with 21 years of NFL officiating experience—for their playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, a move that seemed promising. The results were disappointing, as Wrolstad’s crew missed or made mistakes on multiple questionable calls throughout the game.
This Sunday, the Lions will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs, and once again, the NFL will send a very experienced referee to Detroit in the hopes of keeping the referee involvement to a minimum.
“Bill Vinovich is the referee (for the Lions vs. Bucs game), who is in his 18th season and 15th as referee,” Football Zebra’s wrote in their divisional preview of the referee assignments. “This is his 18th postseason assignment, including 3 Wild Card Playoffs, 7 Divisional Playoffs, 6 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XLIX and LIV. Both of his Super Bowl assignments were as a referee.”
While the NFL uses a mixed crew of all-star officials during the playoffs, it’s worth taking note that Vinovich-led crews averaged 11.81 penalties called per game in 2023, slightly above the league average of 11.4 per game. The yardage amassed on penalties is also close to the league average under Vinovich’s watch, resulting in just over a yard fewer than what is called in most games.
Vinovich has called 13 Lions games over his 15 seasons as a referee, but he was not assigned to a Detroit game this season. In fact, the last Lions game Vinovich called was in Week 2 of the 2022 season, when Detroit beat the Commanders, 36-27. In that game, there was a total of just three penalties accepted, two against Washington and just one against Detroit.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Brad Allen was not assigned to a playoff game this week—for the second week in an row.