The folks at TMZ touched off an unlikely firestorm via a recent video of the lengthy procession of people from an oversized clown car bearing the logo of the Dallas Cowboys. The group emerging from the multi-million-dollar bus included team COO Stephen Jones, smedium-shirted Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, and NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino.
Blandino’s presence, undetected by TMZ since he otherwise enjoys a low profile, has sparked a flurry of anonymous gripes and whines to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports regarding the apparent belief that Blandino spending time with Stephen Jones in a social setting will result in the Cowboys somehow getting better calls and in turn winning more games and ultimately not failing to qualify for the postseason. Meanwhile, none of those anonymous complainers has made their feelings known, anonymously or otherwise, to the league office.
Per a league source, not a single complaint has been made by any NFL team regarding Blandino’s interaction with Stephen Jones.
And for good reason. Unless Blandino possesses the healing powers of Mr. Miyagi and used them on Tony Romo’s back, Blandino’s visit as a practical matter will have no connection to the Cowboys’ on-field fortunes. And if other teams truly are worried about the possibility that Blandino has taken residence in the Cowboys’ back pocket, those other team either need better things to worry about, or they’re worrying about the wrong things.
Blandino’s job entails visiting teams and interacting with coaches and executives. These visits, as shocking as it may seem to those who clearly don’t understand the importance of developing relationships away from work in order to enhance working relationships, often include spending time in a social setting. That’s the way it is for the V.P. of officiating, and that’s the way it’s been when others have held the job.
The V.P. of officiating actually spends extra time with members of the league’s Competition Committee. And Stephen Jones is a member of the league’s Competition Committee.
Beyond interacting in person with coaches and executives, Blandino routinely fields phone calls from most of them. Some call a lot. Are the ones who call a lot getting an unfair advantage? If Blandino is performing his job properly, the answer is an unequivocal no.
Blandino apparently was visiting Cowboys camp, and he apparently was invited to go to dinner with Jones. They apparently took the bus. They apparently decided to go get a drink. He apparently exited the bus and walked into an establishment. With no other images of Blandino, Manziel-style or otherwise, there’s no reason to believe that Blandino did anything wrong or that the Cowboys will get any type of favorable treatment in 2014 or beyond.
If anything, the pissing and moaning from anonymous team officials could be aimed at making a non-story into a big deal, in the hopes that Blandino will go so far to ensure that the Cowboys won’t get preferential treatment that their opponents will.
Ultimately, look for Blandino to keep doing the job as he has throughout his first year in the position, which includes interpreting and applying the rules fairly and objectively, and managing a wide variety of relationships with an even wider variety of personalities and characters. Including those who own buses emblazoned with the team’s logo.