It seems as though each passing year brings greater scrutiny for the NFL upon its officiating, and they don’t always help matters when they make high-profile rule-changes, whether well-intended or not, that ultimately prove to be poorly implemented. The decision last season to allow pass interference to be reviewable proved to be a dismal failure because it was executed poorly, and the league appears to have abandoned it already.
With the legalization of gambling on sports, it is all the more imperative that the NFL projects an image that its officiating is reliable and credible, because there is the possibility that they could subject themselves to lawsuits if egregious officiating errors affect the outcomes of games. This already happened with the New Orleans Saints NFC Championship Game loss in 2018.
To that end, the league has been looking to revamp its officiating department from the executive side (although they have also hired several new officials). Previously, long-time referee Walt Anderson was hired to become senior vice president of development and training for the officiating department.
Now, long-time coach Perry Fewell is joining the league offices, in a post that is not currently with a title, but which according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, will be tasked with supervising the officiating department.
While Al Riveron continues to function as the senior vice president of officiating, the NFL has essentially added other positions that appear to be on the same level of the hierarchy as him, and presumably, we can see a reduction of his authority.
“Sources said Fewell will oversee the day-to-day operations of the officiating department”, Seifert writes. He will also “ensure compliance with the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Referee Association and handle communication with coaches and general managers, among other tasks”.
The article also mentions, as I have previously written, that former senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino was the league’s early target, but they ultimately could not work out an agreement. Blandino surprising resigned from that post a few years ago, and has since worked in broadcasting. He has also been an officiating advisor for the AAF, the XFL, and the NCAA.
What does all of this mean for the state of officiating? Frankly, the biggest change we could possibly hope to see would be that the sole responsibility of deciding the outcome of replay reviews will no longer be in the hands of one individual, that being Riveron, who has been widely panned for his function in that role. Whether or not this happens remains to be seen.