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When it comes to professional sports, there’s no such thing as one coach running the team by himself. As specialization has grown, teams have hired coaches to control every facet of the game. NFL teams, for example, have coaches who do everything from coordinating special teams to ensure the head coach doesn’t wander too far on the sidelines. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have taken things a bit further, however. They currently have a referee on their coaching staff.

While a former ref might seem like a strange inclusion, it actually makes sense. In an NFL game, a single coach’s challenge can change the course of history.

Bruce Arians’ coaching career

Bruce Arians’ football career started in the 1970s when he played football at Virginia Tech. After his time as the team’s quarterback ended, he remained on campus as a graduate assistant. He later moved on to Mississippi State before scoring a gig on Paul “Bear” Bryant’s staff.

Arians’ made the jump to the NFL in 1989, joining the Kansas City Chiefs staff as a running backs coach. After a few more jumps between NCAA and pro clubs, he signed on at the Indianapolis Colts quarterback coach, working with a young Peyton Manning. From there, he spent several years with the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers before returning to Indy.

During the 2012 season, Arians led the Colts after Chuck Pagano’s cancer diagnosis. That experience proved he was ready to run an NFL team. Pagano would take the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job in 2013; he retired in 2017 but returned to the sideline this season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Building the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff

After accepting the Buccaneers’ head coaching job, Arians started to build out his staff. He took the hiring process incredibly seriously, building a team of 28 assistants.

While the coaching staff includes all the standard roles, like offensive and defensive coordinators, quite a few unusual assistants are working in Tampa. The Bucs have a speed and conditioning coach, a specific safeties coach, and a specialist coach, among others.

But on that massive staff, one coach stands out. It’s a former referee.

Who is former NFL referee Larry Rose?

Referee Larry Rose helps Bruce Arians understand pass interference and other penalties.
Side judge Larry Rose (center) is now a member of the Tampa Buccaneers coaching staff. | Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Larry Rose’s official title on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff is “officiating consultant.” While that sounds like an unusual position, it makes sense given his past and the realities of the modern NFL.

Rose is a former official who spent 17 years as an NFL side judge. He worked 14 playoff games in his career, including two conference championship games and Super Bowl XLII. He has also worked for the SEC and Sun Belt Conferences, helping to train new officials.

On the Bucs’ staff, Rose’s job is twofold. During the practice week, he works with the coaching staff to help clarify any potential refereeing issues; he also watches practice, helping players understand what they can and can’t do on the field. Rose also assists on gameday, advising the coaching staff on potential challenges.

Given the perpetual uncertainties around NFL officiating—pass interference and the definition of a catch remain eternal questions—Rose could be a clever hire for the Buccaneers. While NFL starters can’t be plucked off the street without competition, adding a refereeing consultant could save a team a few touchdowns over the course of the year. In a league of tight margins, those points could make all the difference.