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Perry Fewell staffs up as part of the Officiating Improvement Plan

Department overhaul is complete as the officials return from break



The overhaul is wrapping up as the officiating season begins

Last week, Football Zebras reported some personnel moves as part of a larger initiative to overhaul the officiating department. At the time, umpire Ramon George and replay official Mark Butterworth were identified as new vice presidents within the department, but sources said the “glue wasn’t dry” on the exact structure of the department.

Today, the NFL announced a slew of appointments within the officiating department that give more shape to the reorganization process. Additionally, officials were informed by their first memo yesterday about the changes to the department, as the officiating offseason has formally concluded.

Perry Fewell, the sole remaining of the three senior vice presidents in the department from the 2020 season, will be the head of the department. His title remains unchanged as senior vice president of officiating administration and communication. Fewell has handled the administrative end of the department as well as communication with coaches. Fewell was hired to the officiating department after 22 years of several NFL assistant coaching positions and two stints as an interim head coach.

“As part of our ongoing Officiating Improvement Plan, we have added these veteran officials who understand the game from the field up and what it takes to improve and sustain officiating long-term as a center of excellence,” said Fewell. “When we improve training and development, we aim for better consistency, game efficiency, accuracy, accountability, and communication across all levels of game administration.”

Specific details of what the Officiating Improvement Plan outlined were not specified.

The previously reported promotions are that George is now vice president of officiating training and development and Butterworth is vice president of replay training and development. Previously, Walt Anderson had the same title in name — just with senior appended to it — and effectively was in charge of officials: rules interpretations, mechanics, weekly training, and oversaw the grading process by the supervisors in the department. The change in the level of the title is attributed to a structure that is more hierarchical under the reorganization.

George’s training and development duties are described by the league as “including oversight of officiating position coaches,” according to the press release. “He will implement and grow specific programs for game officials transitioning into the league as well as ensuring a robust program for recruiting new officials.”

So, there might be a little more shift in the actual responsibilities that Anderson had and George will have. Anderson, who stepped down so that his son could be hired as an on-field official, is now a liaison to the network rules analysts and to the teams. This means George will not be directly responsible with producing training videos for the teams on various questions or interpretations that come up during the season.

Butterworth will be in the Art McNally Gameday Central — the war room of replay operations — monitoring all games and is apparently the primary decision maker on replay reviews. The rules allow flexibility to have additional senior staff make calls, particularly if there are multiple reviews simultaneously. Previously, Anderson was the primary, with the head of replay and Fewell also permitted to make decisions.

The description in the press release seems to encompass all the responsibilities of the previous vice president of replay, Jon Berger, who Football Zebras has learned will be moved down to director of replay.

Newly hired to the department three officials that will have a development role: umpire Fred Bryan (who last year switched to down judge), field judge and side judge Tom Hill, and former line judge Gary Arthur. Bryan’s name was tossed around as someone headed to the league office at the end of last season. Hill retired after 25 seasons and was one of the two covering officials for the Chiefs game-winning overtime touchdown in Super Bowl LVIII. Arthur retired after the 2020 season after sustaining a series of injuries.

Bryan and Arthur will be officiating coordinator coaches, essentially position trainers for umpires and line of scrimmage officials, respectively. Hill will be an officiating trainer, taking a holistic approach to the current officiating training as well as working with college officials in the Mackie Development Program, the league’s pool of potential recruits.

Arthur will be replacing Ed Camp, the retired down judge, as a coordinator coach.

Not mentioned in the press release is George Stewart, the vice president of training and development, who is expected to remain in that role. George, Butterworth, and Stewart will directly report to Fewell, who will be the sole report to Troy Vincent, the executive vice-president of officiating.

Typically, grading is handled by supervisors, all of whom are former on-field officials, and usually represent the four general skill areas: referee, umpire, short wings, and deep officials. Last season, the supervisors were not listed in the league’s annual Record and Fact Book, as they had in previous years, but the list included Garth DeFelice (umpires), Rob Vernatchi (deep), and Doug Rosenbaum (deep). Former referee Bill Leavy was a supervisor last calendar year, but died during the offseason.

It is believed, but not immediately clear, that George will have oversight with the grading process.