The NFL has its message down pat: The instant replay “process” isn’t changing. That’s what league officials and the NFL’s head of officiating repeated Friday during the first day of their annual officiating clinic.
But what has changed is who makes replay decisions under the NFL’s new centralized system.
“The process hasn’t changed,” Alberto Riveron, the league’s senior vice president of officiating, said. “We’ve had the same process in place now for three years, so the only thing that’s changed about the process that instead of the final decision being with the referee on the field, it’s now with New York.
“Again, we go back to the process. The referee goes and speaks with the coach, stops the game, makes an announcement, consults with us in New York. In the meantime, while he’s had that conversation with the coach, we are gearing up in New York and showing up the best possible angles, and then the final decisions will be made in New York. But the consultation process, the way we look at the film, the plays we show him, the angles, that hasn’t changed one bit.”
Riveron said plans are for him to make every decision. However, Wayne Mackie, the league’s vice president of officiating evaluation and development, and Russell Yurk, the league’s vice president of instant replay and administration, will provide assistance, especially if multiple replays happen simultaneously.
“Ultimately, I’m making the decisions,” said Riveron, who was a veteran game official for nine seasons. “But that’s why, like before when it was Dean [Blandino] and myself in that room, now we’re going to have Wayne Mackie, Russell Yurk, and myself in the room, so if I’m tied up in a replay, somebody else will be looking at that, but ultimately I will be involved in every decision-making process.”
Riveron will communicate with the referee, who now will use a tablet on the sideline to view the play in question, before Riveron makes his decision. Previously, referees made replay decisions after consulting a monitor under a hood on the sideline. The new system mirrors that of the NHL and MLB.
“Obviously, I’ll have the same input that I’ve had in the past, but then the final decision will be made in New York,” referee Walt Coleman said. “That’s obviously to be consistent, so instead of 17 referees deciding stuff, the people in New York will be deciding. I think that it will help with consistency on the calls, because what I think is an incomplete pass might not necessarily be what another referee thinks. I think it’s good, and I think it helps for consistency and so forth. The process is pretty much the same other than where the final decision comes from.”
The move to centralized replay intends to streamline the process and quicken the pace of reaching a decision. Referees insist they have no problem with having the final decision taken out of their hands.
“I have never had a situation where New York and I differed on what we were going to do, so it will still be seamless,” referee Brad Allen said. “The fact that in most circumstances, we’re not physically going to be under a hood, we are going to be looking at a tablet, it’s a little different.
“We just don’t see it as an issue; we really don’t.”