Football Zebras™

Al Riveron promoted to senior vice president of officiating

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The NFL has promoted Al Riveron to senior vice president of officiating to fill the vacancy left by Dean Blandino’s sudden departure. Riveron was the second-in-command in the officiating department as senior director of officiating. The league made the announcement this morning and teams were informed by a memo from Football Operations.

Blandino will be transitioning out of his position this month for what has been characterized by our sources as “a multimillion-dollar deal with Fox” as their second rules analyst to work in tandem with another former officiating department head, Mike Pereira.

Riveron assumes the mantle of leadership the same season that the league voted to centralize replay. All replay reviews that are triggered by a challenge or a booth review will be decided by senior staff in the officiating command center. Since 2014, the command center has been able to advise on replay reviews, and Blandino and Riveron have taken a very hands-on approach with replay decisions.

Riveron was born in Cuba and became the first Hispanic NFL referee in 2008. He started in the NFL as a side judge in 2004, working on crews headed by Gerry Austin and Ed Hochuli. He moved off the field after the 2012 season into the newly created senior director position. While not acknowledged by the league, the move apparently was to give Blandino, who had never officiated a football game outside of replay assignments, an adviser with on-field experience. Riveron was on the field for the 2011 AFC Championship between the Patriots and Ravens, 3 divisional playoffs, and a wild card game. During the 2014 AFC Championship game, Riveron made an executive decision (which was separately decided by Football Operations staff as well) to check the air pressure of the footballs at halftime when the Colts alleged that the Patriots had intentionally deflated their game ball supply in the Deflategate incident.

In a statement released by the league, commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Al has done a terrific job as a key member of our officiating staff for the past four seasons. Prior to that, Al was an outstanding on-field official who earned the respect of his fellow officials, as well as coaches and players alike.”

The title of the department head changed in 2016 from vice president to senior vice president, which was rumored to be an enticement for Blandino to stay with the NFL.

New vice president of replay named

With Blandino’s departure, the league created a new position that would cover his field of greatest expertise: replay. The vice president of replay and administration will be Russell Yurk, a 7-year veteran of the NFL replay booth. Yurk was promoted from replay assistant to replay official last season. He also was a college and high school official for 10 years.

Yurk has been responsible for the replay section of the referee’s manual. In his new role, he will oversee logistics and scheduling for the officiating staff and the to recruitment and evaluation of replay officials, assistants, and communicators.

Mackie tabbed as VP of development

Head linesman Wayne Mackie was also assigned to a new position: vice president of officiating evaluation and development, which the NFL press release states is “responsible for the officiating evaluation and development program.” (Naturally.) This position was not previously posted, like the senior vice president and replay vice president positions, so the job description is not entirely known. Additional responsibilities include “managing the on-field officials weekly crew evaluation process, as well the staff of officiating supervisors and trainers, and the management of the Officiating Development Program.”

Mackie, who lives in Queens, N.Y., will not have to relocate for the position. He finished his 10th season in the NFL last year, having been assigned to many top postseason assignments, including his last game in the AFC Championship, the 2012 NFC Championship, and Super Bowl 50. He also was a candidate at one time to be promoted to referee.

The league also stated that Yurk and Mackie will be in the officiating command center on Sundays, and, with Riveron, will be the three people authorized to issue replay decisions under the new centralized replay rule.

Goodell added, “To have Al leading our officiating department, and then to add talented, knowledgeable instant replay and officiating experts like Russell and Wayne, is a tremendous positive for us as we look forward to the 2017 season.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter posted the memo released to teams.

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