Hochuli, who wears uniform number 85, is one of the most respected officials in the NFL for working numerous playoff games, two Super Bowls, as well as for his athletic physique and explanations on the football field. In a poll conducted by ESPN in 2008, Hochuli tied referee Mike Carey for "best referee" votes among NFL head coaches with eight. Beginning his nineteenth season in the league and seventeenth as referee (crew chief) with the 2008 NFL season, Hochuli's officiating crew consists of Chad Brown, Mark Hittner, Tim Podraza, Mike Weatherford, Tom Sifferman, and Bill Schmitz.
Hochuli is a trial lawyer and a partner in the Arizona law firm of Jones, Skelton and Hochuli, P.L.C. since it was founded in 1983. The firm started with five partners and seven associates, and has expanded to over eighty attorneys. Hochuli specializes in civil litigation in the areas of Bad Faith and Extra-Contractual Liability, Complex Litigation, Insurance Coverage and Fraud, Legal Malpractice and Professional Liability, Product Liability Defense, Trucking and Transportation Industry Defense, and Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Defense, and claims to be involved in two hundred cases at any time. He is admitted to practice in Arizona state and federal courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. His recognition as an attorney includes being named Best Lawyers in America since 2003 and Southwest Super Lawyers in 2007. Super Lawyers includes only the top five percent of lawyers in a state based on point totals, as chosen by peers and through independent research by Law & Politics.
Comparing his law and officiating professions, he says "A trial is nothing, pressure-wise, compared to the NFL. … I have that long (he snaps his fingers) to make a decision with a million people watching and second-guessing (by video) in slow-motion. You've got to be right or wrong. I love the satisfaction when you are right — and the agony when you are wrong." Hochuli finds similarities between the football field and courtroom saying, "On the football field, people like that I'm in charge and know what I'm doing, but a lot of the time, it's just appearance. I'm going to sell you on my decision. It's the same in the courtroom. You don't stand in front of a jury and say, 'I think my client is innocent.' You say, 'We're right!'"
Since becoming a referee, Hochuli headed the officiating crews for Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXVIII, and he was selected as an alternate for Super Bowl XXXI, Super Bowl XXXVII, and Super Bowl XXXIX. In addition to working two Super Bowls, he has officiated five conference championship games as of the start of the 2007 NFL season. Every officiating game performance is graded by the league each week. These grades determine which officials are assigned playoff games, as well as the Super Bowl. Hochuli credits his mentor, Jerry Markbreit, a four-time Super Bowl referee, as the greatest influence on his career.
At the start of the season, officials had rejected a league offer of a sixty percent immediate increase in salary, followed by an eighty-five percent salary increase in 2002, and a one-hundred percent increase in 2003. For the first time in league history, replacement officials were used during the regular season. Hochuli had distributed an e-mail to 1,200 potential replacement officials warning them that "Working as a scab will actually hurt and likely kill any chances you would have of ever getting into the NFL." He later regretted sending the letter to college football officials across the United States. The stalemate between the union and the league ended on September 19, 2001, when officials agreed to a six-year deal from the league with an immediate increase in salary of 50 percent with a raise each year. Officials had been locked out since the final week of pre-season games that year and returned to work on September 23, 2001 when the league resumed games following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Hochuli has worked memorable games throughout his career. In his second year as referee, he worked the 1993 Thanksgiving Day game between the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins in Irving, Texas. During the final moments of the game, Miami placekicker Pete Stoyanovich had a field goal attempt blocked. The Cowboys' Leon Lett inadvertently touched the loose ball before the Dolphins' Jeff Dellenbach pounced on it. At the time, Hochuli had "no idea" what happened during the play and had to confer with three other officials to piece together the sequence of events. With the information gathered from the officials, he ruled that Miami retained possession of the football.
On October 2, 2005, he officiated the first regular season NFL game played outside the United States when the Arizona Cardinals played the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City, Mexico as part of the league's "Fútbol Americano" marketing campaign. On the first penalty announcement of the game, Hochuli gave the explanation in Spanish to pay respect to the host city and country.
He was the referee for the game between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, played December 17, 2006, that included Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre becoming the all-time leader for pass completions among quarterbacks in the NFL. Favre was unaware that his 4,968 pass completions were a record until he was informed during the game by Hochuli. Hochuli was the referee again for another Favre record-breaking moment when Favre threw his 421st touchdown pass of his career on September 30, 2007 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota to break the record previously held by Dan Marino.
One of Hochuli's notable explanations came during a 2007 regular season game between the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots. While nullifying a holding infraction, he announced through his microphone, "There was no foul on the play. It was not a hold. The defender was just overpowered."
On September 14, 2008, Hochuli officiated a game between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos, which has become notable for two controversial calls. The first call was a questionable interception made by Champ Bailey, stripping the ball from Chris Chambers. The call on the field was that it was an interception. San Diego coach Norv Turner challenged the ruling, but the officials' replay equipment was malfunctioning, and the officials were unable to review the call. The second questionable call came with 1:17 left in the game, while Denver was in possession of the ball at the San Diego one yard line, trailing the Chargers by seven points. On a second-down play, Denver quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled the ball, and it was recovered by San Diego linebacker Tim Dobbins. Ed Hochuli blew his whistle during the play, signaling that the play was dead. Hochuli admitted his mistake and spotted the ball at the point of the fumble, but could not award possession to San Diego. The NFL intends to review the "inadvertent whistle rule" as a result of this play following the 2008 season. Hochuli responded to the situation, writing, "Affecting the outcome of a game is a devastating feeling. Officials strive for perfection – I failed miserably."
Hochuli's career as an NFL official has been chronicled on the NFL Network's Six Days to Sunday in 2005. The half-hour television program detailed the game preparations that Hochuli goes through from Monday to Saturday during the season. This preparation work includes fifteen hours of video tape game review, a "couple hours" completing administrative tasks for the NFL, reading the rulebook, taking a weekly written exam on rules, and communicating with league supervisors.
Hochuli's celebrity status off the field includes being mentioned on the "Top Ten List" during the January 29, 2002 edition of the Late Show with David Letterman. His likeness appears in the Madden NFL video game franchise starting with Madden NFL 06.
His muscular upper body appearance has been noticed by NFL players. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said, "You look at [Hochuli] and it looks like he needs to be on our side of the ball, or on defense." Wide receiver Tim Dwight challenged Hochuli to a "measure off," to determine who had the bigger biceps during a pre-season game prior to the 2006 NFL season. Between plays in a game, Hochuli is known to joke with the defensive linemen, who in turn, joke with him about his physique. When asked by a player to become a member of a particular team, Hochuli replies with, "I'd get hurt in the huddle."