After the NFL decided to let senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino to leave for FOX, the league handed the job to Al Riveron. Riveron has struggled in two key aspects of the job: (1) consistently applying the replay standard in an accurate way; and (2) persuasively explaining the decisions made during the replay process to the media and the fans.
So did the league office underestimate how difficult it would be to replace Blandino?
“I think that there was a sense of, around the league office and some of the people in leadership positions, they didn’t value that position the way it should have been valued, and how important it is,” Blandino said during a Wednesday visit to the PFT PM podcast. “During the season, other than the Commissioner, the head of officiating is probably the most public-facing person in the office. And those decisions that are made, I mean, these affect the outcome of games, and that’s your product on the field.
“So I do feel that the position was not valued to where it should have been. And, look, you always like to feel that you provided value, and I would never want someone to fail to make myself look better, but I do believe that they never valued that position where it should have been, and maybe it’s a wake-up call for some people around the league.”
Go back and read that quote again. Read between the lines. Blandino was being diplomatic and tactful, but the message is unmistakable. The NFL wasn’t paying enough money for everything that the job entails.
Despite the billions earned and the millions paid out annually to the Commissioner, the NFL remains (like many other successful businesses) unreasonably cheap in too many different ways. With the V.P. of officiating gig, the NFL either wasn’t paying Blandino enough for everything he was doing or the league decided not to mobilize with a better offer to keep Blandino around when faced with the prospect of him leaving, or both.
Earlier in the discussion, I joked (sort of) with Blandino about the possibility of the league offering him a temporary assignment to return to the job for the postseason and Super Bowl, with the league figuring out how to fix the replay system after the playoffs end.
“I’m very happy doing what I’m doing at FOX,” Blandino said.
I quickly pointed out that it would be a temporary assignment.
“Depends on what the numbers are, what the finances look like,” Blandino said. “But I’m very happy at FOX, and really happy with what I’m doing right now.”
He’s likely happy in part because FOX properly values his skills and abilities. The NFL didn’t. And the current issues with officiating — specifically, the consistent misapplication of the replay standard — can all be traced to that one business decision gone bad.