Football Zebras
CommentaryVP of officiating: who WANTS this job?!

VP of officiating: who WANTS this job?!

Former vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira (pictured above), knew every Monday during the football season would be busy. In his book, After Further Review, Pereira wrote that he could predict what coaches would be calling and what they wanted to talk about. He had to field calls, explain why the call was right or wrong (with a coach hardly ever satisfied), explain to his superiors why a call was right or wrong, answer media calls and then deal with his officials.

And that’s Monday morning. 

Who would want this job?  Over the years, the senior vice president of officiating has grown more prominent and stressful. It takes a special combination of talent and availability to run the NFL officiating department.

Relocation mandatory

The senior vice president of officiating needs to live in New York City or a within a very short commute to the NFL headquarters on Park Avenue. If an official lives west of the Hudson River, it is a big culture shift. What does the wife think of a move? Do they keep their current home? What about the kids or grand-kids? Art McNally lived in Philadelphia and commuted between his home and New York during his tenure. Jerry Seeman (pictured right) maintained two residences — one in New York and he kept his house in his hometown in Fridley, Minnesota. Mike Pereira and Carl Johnson had to move to New York from their homes in California and Louisiana and commuted home when they could. Dean Blandino is a native of Long Island and did not need to relocate.

The position pays a low-to-middle six figures –much, much less than that of a vice president of a corporation of comparable profit — and it does not produce generational wealth.

Real estate in the New York metro area isn’t cheap. Who wants to move?

Management skills a must

The senior vice president of officiating needs to be a good manager. He or she needs to oversee a budget, lead a group of strong-willed employees, be proficient in labor-management relations, delegate authority yet know when to step in and make a decision, scout and hire new employees and terminate employees whose skills have eroded.

The person in charge of the officials needs to protect their employees from untoward outside pressures (like some wanting suspensions for a PR effect), yet hold the zebra herd accountable. They need to know when to give a pat on the back or a kick in the pants. They need to boost morale after a tough game and exhort crews to excellence. 

The person then has to assign officials to the playoffs, a decision that will be sure to elicit complaints from those left out of the post-season fun.

Also, the senior vice president of officiating needs to be confident and competent public speaker. They need to have that “it” factor that instills confidence when he or she explains calls and rules to a skeptical audience.

The senior vice president of officiating needs to be respected, not feared. 

It takes a unique skill set. Who has those skills?

This is a multi-year investment

When he took the job, Dean Blandino said the shelf life for the head of officials was five years. I think the person needs to hold the job longer. Art McNally was in the job 22-years. Jerry Seeman was in the job 11 years. Pereira went nine years. Carl Johnson was in the post three years. Blandino lasted four years. This is a position that needs stability and consistency. Carl Johnson didn’t last long enough to make a mark. Blandino made an impact in instant replay rules. He was just finding his stride when he left the post.

In my opinion, the senior vice president of officiating needs to hold down the post for at least 10 years. 

Who is ready for a 10-year committment?

Leaving the field

Traditionally, the NFL hires an official off the field to be the head zebra. Since the NFL wants a multi-year commitment, that means a NFL official will have to swap a striped shirt for a starched shirt. Frankly, who want to leave the field?! The action is on the field, not behind a desk. Nothing replaces the adrenaline rush of working a football game.

Scouting, managing and mentoring is nice and important, but it doesn’t replace calling a game.

Art McNally left the field in his early 40s. Jerry Seeman was 56. Mike Pereira was 51. They all left at least 10 more years of officiating on the field. 

For an official who has already officiated the Super Bowl and might be slowing down with chronic aches and pains, they may like a new challenge. But, leaving the field is never an easy cut-and-dried decision.

Who wants to leave the field?

The senior vice president of officiating is a thankless, lonely and high-pressure job. Whoever takes Blandino’s place will have to hit the ground running.

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