Former NFL ref John Parry reportedly leaving ESPN for Bills as 'officiating liaison'

Former NFL official John Parry is leaving his role as ESPN’s rules analyst for a job with the Buffalo Bills, according to multiple reports.

Parry’s role with the Bills will serve as “officiating liaison” where he will advise head coach Sean McDermott and his staff on NFL rules and replay decisions.

“Officials look at the game so differently than players, coaches, and fans,” Parry told Football Zebras, who reported the former ref had one year remaining on his ESPN contract. “So to have somebody up [in the booth]: Hey, this is the mechanic, this is why that person made that call. And no matter what happens to this replay, if they flip it, here’s where the ball will be spotted. Here’s the down and distance. The clock’s gonna start in the ready for play, or it’s a 10-second runoff, so you could take a timeout. So you better start thinking about that, will you take one? Will you not?

“There’s so much on the shoulders of coaches as it pertains specifically to replay because it’s grown so much and it is complicated. It’s hard to keep all of that data straight. And I think there’s value to having — I mean, obviously if you’re working for a team, you want to win — but your job is to ensure that they have all the data that they can make the appropriate decision or the decision they want.”

Parry started with the NFL as a replay official in 1999 and was promoted to referee in 2008. He worked two Super Bowls as referee and retired after the 2018 season. He had been with ESPN since 2019.

During the 2023 NFL season, the Bills won 50% of their challenges (3-for-6), but since 2017 have only had 10 calls overturned and 23 upheld, per Pro Football Reference.

“Most teams have a guy that specializes in replay game management, clock management, but the officiating lenses is totally different than a coach’s perspective,” Parry said. “And I think the Bills specifically recognize that replay is here to stay, it’s only gonna grow. We potentially should have somebody that’s done it, looked under that hood.”

The NFL approved new rules for 2024 regarding the hip-drop tackle and kickoffs. How those changes will be officiated is where Parry can assist in McDermott, who was added to the Competition Committee in February.

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