The league’s quasi-announcement that Al Riveron will return as senior V.P. of officiating doesn’t mean that changes won’t be made in 2018. Undoubtedly, they need to be made.
To his credit, Riveron seems to be applying more consistently the “clear and obvious evidence” standard for overturning rulings on the field via replay review. For example, during the regular season, Riveron may have opted based on a frame-by-frame review of the Dion Lewis/Myles Jack play to conclude that Lewis secured possession of the ball by pinning it to his hip with his forearm, making him down by contact before the ball eventually popped out and was recovered by Jack. Riveron instead applied the high “clear and obvious” bar, finding that the ruling on the field of a fumble by Lewis was the correct one.
But the job entails much more than running the replay-review process. As noted recently, Riveron’s role carries with it an important P.R. function. But he has become largely invisible, creating a vacuum that has been filled by two of his predecessors — FOX’s Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino — who have become the most credible voices regarding the credibility of the league’s critical officiating function.
Either Riveron needs to be saying more in 2018, or the league needs to hire someone who will be. That doesn’t mean Riveron should be replaced as the head of officiating; however, the league would benefit from a clear, persistent, and persuasive voice who relishes the chance to spread the gospel of NFL officiating, and to acknowledge errors and flaws when common sense and fairness require that approach.