Officiating video steers clear of controversial calls

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On Friday of each week, the league office produces an officiating video that reviews select calls and circumstances from the prior week for the benefit of educating the media and, in turn, the public. Under former senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, it was a must-watch clip. With  Al Riveron taking over the duties, well, let’s just say it was a must-watch clip under Blandino.

There’s nothing substantively or stylistically wrong with it now. There’s just little or no substance to it. It’s short, most of the calls reviewed are fairly obvious, and few of them entail any type of explanation that makes me or any of the other PFT writers say, “We must share this information with the audience!

In the latest officiating video, Riveron steers clear of the two most controversial rulings of the weekend. Both were in the Titans-Chiefs game, and one affected each team.

The first half sack of Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota caused a fumble. The ruling on the field was that his forward progress had been stopped. That’s a non-reviewable judgment call.

Now perhaps the league believed anyone who cared about that ruling already knew about if from watching the game or reading the media accounts, but in a video that covers only three plays from four games in total time of two minutes and 30 seconds, it seems like the most controversial ruling of the weekend should have been included. Unless, of course, the league didn’t want to draw any additional attention to the glaring error of judgment made by the officiating crew; the logic applied to the Mariota non-fumble ruling could be applied to most if not all instances when a quarterback fumbles the ball after being hit.

Later in the game, tight end Travis Kelce absorbed a hit to the head that caused him to come up wobbly. He clearly fumbled the ball before hitting the ground. As PFT explained, the replay official didn’t call for a full review because the replay official believed the video showed Kelce recovered the ball before a Titans played scooped it up.

Why not explain that in the officiating video?

Other calls that cried out for an explanation include the Cam Newton intentional grounding call at the end of the Panthers-Saints game, the Nathan Peterman intentional grounding call at the end of the Bills-Jaguars game, the Mike Adams interception in the fourth quarter of the Panthers-Saints game (which possibly wasn’t a catch), and the various glitches listed by MDS on Monday.

Instead, the wild-card video pointed out that Mariota’s whole body wasn’t past the line of scrimmage prior to the throw that he caught after Chiefs cornerback Darrelle Revis tipped it, the video explained the administration of a five-yard penalty on one team and a 15-yard penalty against the other during a play resulting in a change of possession, and the video explained the procedures for handling a “fourth time out” assessed against the Bills when quarterback Tyrod Taylor suffered an injury in the final two minutes of the game and Buffalo had used its three time outs.

As noted when Riveron received the promotion in May, communications with the media has become one of the most critical aspects of the job. Coupled with the new responsibility this year for making all replay review decisions and the fairly recent responsibility for communicating with crews in real time on matters of administration, the position has become at least the second-most (if not single-most) important title in the league office during the season for that reason.

Regarding replay review, there have been too many failures to apply the proper standard. Regarding communications with the media, there simply hasn’t been enough. Riveron should be recording meaningful and instructive videos on a regular basis, he should be appearing on radio and TV shows on properties not owned by the league, and he should simply be more visible.

Maybe the league lacks the appropriate faith in the person who received the assignment when Blandino surprised everyone and left the NFL for FOX. Maybe the league has decided to shun the kind of transparency and candor that used to be employed. Hopefully the league will take a hard look at the situation and devise meaningful ways to improve performance in this critically important position at 345 Park Avenue.