NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, who had twice before defended a controversial decision to turn a touchdown in the Patriots-Jets game into a touchback via replay review, previously declined to address the comments from two of his predecessors on the issue. On Tuesday, Riveron was asked again about the beliefs of Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino that the visual evidence was not clear and obvious to show tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins failed to recover the ball. This time, he responded. Sort of.
“So Dean Blandino [and] Mike Pereira, who both held you job before you did, both questioned the decision,” Total Access co-host Dan Hellie asked Riveron. “They thought that there wasn’t a good enough view and that he regained control and the call on the field should have stood. Did you guys have enough angles to look at this when you were evaluating it?”
“Oh, no doubt about it, Dan,” Riveron replied. “And as we see, he must maintain control of the ball once he hits the ground, and he does not. And we’ve already established that there was a fumble. He does not maintain control when he hits the ground and [goes] out of bounds. So therefore it’s a fumble that goes out of bounds.”
Hellie also asked, in a pointed but respectful way, about images that seem to show Seferian-Jenkins controlling the ball before he lands out of bounds.
“That was not the case, Dan,” Riveron said. “The ball was moving. He never regains control of the football once he’s on the grounds out of bounds. Therefore, it’s a loose ball out of bounds in the end zone.”
That’s what Riveron may believe based on the video, but the question isn’t whether Riveron believes it based on the video. The question is whether it’s clear and obvious that the officials who were looking at the play in real time erroneously ruled that Seferian-Jenkins failed to regain possession of the ball. It’s not clear and obvious. And that’s why the issue won’t go away.
At this point, it’s too late for Riveron to change his mind. But it’s safe to say he has been reminded, either via external or internal sources, that he needs to stubbornly adhere to the standard that applies to replay review, even if the former referee in Riveron thinks that he would have made a different decision in real time.