The missed call at the end of regulation in the Rams-Saints game should spark real and meaningful changes to the manner in which NFL games are officiated. The league may opt for changes far more superficial.
Peter King of Football Morning in America wonders aloud whether the blunder will bring down senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron.
“As soon as this call got made, I heard from a couple of acquaintances/sources about the impact of it,” King writes. “‘Al Riveron is gone,’ one said. ‘He can’t survive this.’ Another said the league will have to pay big to bring back Dean Blandino or Mike Pereira (less likely). I think Riveron was on thin ice before Sunday. What the NFL should do, if it decides to dump Riveron, is pay realistic money to get Blandino back from his cushy gig at FOX. He’s a trusted and trustworthy guy.”
Blandino has publicly mused about returning to the league office; in late 2017, Blandino half-jokingly acknowledged that he’d potentially be willing to return.
“Depends on what the numbers are, what the finances look like,” Blandino said during a visit to the #PFTPM podcast.
Blandino admitted in that same interview that his departure for FOX resulted from the numbers, or lack thereof, that applied to his position.
“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 at the time. “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.”
Of course, Sunday’s humiliation for 345 Park Avenue didn’t fall within the range of plays that Riveron or Blandino could have fixed, technically. But the real-time pipeline is there, and from time to time there’s a distinct know-it-when-you-see-it delayed reaction decision at a game site that feels palpably like the execution of a mandate from on high.
Riveron could have (should have) used the ability to speak directly to referee Bill Vinovich to tell him to drop a flag. Yes, it would have come late. Yes, it would have sparked speculation that the rules of the high-speed fiber line had been violated. Yes, it would have indeed violated the rules. No, nobody would have really cared — including the Rams and their fans.
It was a foul, plain and simple. It should have been caught when it happened and, failing that, it should have been caught in the de facto safety net provided by the league office, contours of said net be damned.
While the league needs to do much heavy lifting to improve its officiating function, paying Blandino whatever it takes to put him back at the wheel of the bus will be the best way to ensure that, no matter what changes regarding the nuts and bolts of officiating, someone with a keen sense for what needs to happen and when it needs to happen will be there to provide the last line of defense against all hell breaking loose.