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New officiating leadership team strong and prepared



The new officiating year starts today and the NFL leadership team is in place — Al Riveron as senior vice president of officiating, Wayne Mackie as vice president of officiating evaluation and development and Russell Yurk as vice president of replay and administration. Due to the relatively short notice given by Dean Blandino, it is commendable that the NFL was able to hire a fully staffed front office in such a short time. And, the people hired can hit the ground running in terms of experience and logistics. 

Location, location, location

I speculated earlier that the need to move to New York, would be a big reason in determining who would want the job. Riveron has worked at NFL headquarters in New York City since 2013. He knows what goes into the job. The late-stage vacancy may have worked into his favor, since he already knows the front office. Wayne Mackie is actually a resident of New York City, so this represents absolutely no residency challenges. Russell Yurk has to relocate at least on a part-time basis. But, I am sure he and his family are on board.

Skill sets match

Wayne Mackie (Baltimore Ravens photo)

With the three new hires, it is easy to see the skills they bring to the job. Yurk has high school and college officiating experience. He worked has a NFL replay assistant and replay official for seven years. Riveron has been monitoring games from the Art McNally Officiating Command Center since 2013. NFL replay became de facto centralized in 2014; now that the NFL centralized replay by rule, Riveron, Yurk, and Mackie will be well positioned to work with referees to make decisions in replay.

Yurk has been in NFL replay booths all across the country. He knows the pressures, sticking points and tools needed for all replay situations. As an official, he knows rules and procedures. He is a great person to lead replay officials and set expectations.

Mackie has been a NFL official at the highest level. He called Super Bowl 50. He has missed the playoffs. Mackie understands the grading system. He and Riveron will give credibility in evaluating officials. Mackie is also tasked with developing new officials. Mackie already has experience in mentoring young and aspiring officials, and collaborated with both of his employers, the NFL and the New York City Public Housing Authority, on co-sponsored amateur officiating clinics. This new position gives Mackie a golden opportunity to mentor the next generation of NFL officials.

We won’t know the final verdict on these hires for several seasons. Every one of Riveron’s predecessors has had to endure rumors that they were on the hot seat because of officiating quality in the NFL. But, on paper, this is a very strong leadership team.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"