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Pete Morelli

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Pete Morelli
Pete Morelli 2006.jpg
Morelli in 2006
Peter Danie Morelli

(1951-11-18) November 18, 1951 (age 68)
Nationality United States
OccupationNFL official (1997–2018)
President (Saint Mary's High School)

Peter Danie Morelli (born November 18, 1951)[1] is a former American football official in the National Football League (NFL) since the 1997 NFL season and the president of Saint Mary's High School in Stockton, California. He wore uniform number 135.[2][3]

As an official in the NFL, Morelli is known for working Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 as a field judge.[4]


Pete Morelli is married to Cindy and has two sons, Matt and Dan.[5] Morelli currently lives in Stockton, California.[5]

Officiating career

Early years

In 1971, aged 19, Morelli began officiating with his father and two uncles, Joe and Tony Morelli.[5] He started with the California Interscholastic Federation, working high school football games.[5] For his performance, he was assigned playoff and championship games.[5] He later progressed to the college level, officiating in the Big West Conference and Western Athletic Conference.[5] He was selected to work eleven playoff games, including the 1996 Liberty Bowl.[5]

NFL career

Pete Morelli conducts a coin toss with back judge Rob Vernatchi and field judge Jon Lucivansky

Morelli was hired by the NFL in 1997 as a back judge, then switched to field judge after the league swapped position titles in 1998, and was promoted to referee with the start of the 2003 NFL season following the retirements of Dick Hantak and Bob McElwee.

Morelli's 2018 NFL officiating crew consists of umpire Steve Woods, down judge Steve Stelljes, line judge Jeff Seeman, field judge Anthony Jeffries, side judge Boris Cheek, and back judge Keith Ferguson.[6]

Morelli officiated the AFC divisional playoff game in January 2006 between the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers. In the fourth quarter, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu intercepted a Peyton Manning pass and in the process he fumbled the ball, then recovered.[7] Colts head coach Tony Dungy challenged the call, and upon review on instant replay, Morelli overturned the ruling.[7] Following the game, Morelli said, "He was losing it while his other leg was still on the ground. Therefore, he did not complete the catch. And then he lost the ball."[7] A day after the game, the NFL released a statement confirming that Polamalu made the interception, refuting the overturn call of Morelli.[7] Mike Pereira, then-the league's vice president of officiating, said, "[Polamalu] maintained possession long enough to establish a catch. Therefore, the replay review should have upheld the call on the field that it was a catch and fumble."[7]

In November 2007, Morelli was the referee of a game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Towards the end of regulation, Browns placekicker Phil Dawson attempted a 51-yard field goal to tie the game and force an overtime period.[8] The ball ricocheted off the left upright, broke the vertical plane of the crossbar, and bounced off the stanchion and back over the crossbar and onto the field.[9] Initially, field judge Jim Saracino and back judge Keith Ferguson signaled the kick was no good.[9] After a five-minute discussion among the officials,[9] Morelli announced over the public address system that he would "take a look at this play".[10] Upon arriving at the instant review booth, Morelli was informed by replay assistant Howard Slavin through headphones that field goals are not reviewable.[10] Ferguson "felt more strongly" that the ball had crossed through the goal posts and based on this, Morelli declared that the field goal was good.[10][11] As a result of this incident, a rule change was passed during the ensuing offseason, making field goal attempts that bounce off the goal post reviewable under instant replay.[12]

Morelli was the referee of the NFC Championship Game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints in January 24, 2010. Saints' Bobby McCray made a low blindside hit on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre that appeared to have violated the "Tom Brady Rule" in which defenders can't hit quarterbacks below the knees.[13] Pereira later agreed that it was a missed call and a penalty flag should have been thrown.[14] This, along with two other hits on Favre that did draw penalty flags from Morelli's crew,[15] later became one of the many examples cited in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, in which the Saints were accused of operating a slush fund that paid out bonuses for in-game performance in violation of NFL rules.[16]

Morelli was the referee for a prime-time NFC game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers on October 12, 2017, both 4-1 leading into the match-up and battling for the NFC Conference lead. Morelli and his crew made history, penalizing the Eagles 10 times for 126 yards, while penalizing the Panthers one time for one yard. This was the first time in NFL history that one team had over 120 penalty yards while the other had less than 10.[17]

Morelli's final NFL game as referee was the 2019 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, along with Walt Coleman. They both retired after that game.[18]


Morelli was inducted into the St. Mary's High School Hall of Fame in November 2007, where he is president.[19] Morelli also received the Art McNally Award in 2015.[20]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Message from Mr. Morelli". St. Mary's High School (Stockton). Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  3. ^ "2007 NFL Officials Roster". Referee. September 2007.
  4. ^ "NFL SCOREBOARD: Box Score: St. Louis at New England". CNN Sports Illustrated. 2002-02-03. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Pete Morelli". Football Officials Camps, LLC. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d e "NFL: Polamalu overturned interception the wrong call". Associated Press. 2006-01-17. Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  8. ^ Powell, Camille (2007-11-19). "Officially, Ravens Lose Again". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  9. ^ a b c Porter, Todd (2007-11-19). "Stanchion gets spot in Browns infamy". Canton Repository. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  10. ^ a b c Clayton, John (2007-11-12). "'Crazy' win keeps Cleveland in running". Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  11. ^ Judge, Clark (2007-11-18). "Upon further review, replay wasn't used on Dawson's kick". Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  12. ^ "Proposal to reseed playoff teams withdrawn by owners". April 2, 2008. Retrieved April 2, 2008.
  13. ^ Judge, Clark (2010-01-25). "Low moment: Missed call on Favre hit inexcusable". CBS Retrieved 2010-01-27.
  14. ^ Official Review: Mike Pereira takes a look at some close calls from conference championship weekend. Retrieved 2010-01-28.
  15. ^ Judge, Clark (2012-03-02). "Saints, team officials involved in bounty program should pay dearly". Retrieved 2013-12-24.
  16. ^ Clayton, John (2012-09-12). "Resolution needed in Saints scandal". ESPN. Retrieved 2013-12-24.
  17. ^ "Pete Morelli's crew makes history in Eagles win over Panthers". Retrieved 2017-10-13.
  18. ^ Referee Pete Morelli will retire after 22 seasons (Football Zebras)
  19. ^ "Class Notes". Saint Mary's High School. Retrieved 2015-01-24.
  20. ^ "Pete Morelli to receive Art McNally Award". 2015-01-24. Retrieved 2015-01-24.