Looming “top-down review” of officiating puts even more pressure on officiating

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It’s a good thing that the NFL intends to conduct a “top-down review” of officiating in the offseason. It’s not a good thing that we know about it.

The fact that the news has become public necessarily places more pressure on NFL officiating from the top, down.

It starts with senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, who already is under enormous pressure both to supervise a beleaguered band of zebras and to make good decisions when exercising the critically important replay function. Replay review of pass interference has made his job even more difficult, adding a much more convoluted type of analysis to the mix, with subjective calls now subject to second-guessing through frame-by-frame analysis of available visual evidence.

Making his job even more difficult are the shifting sands of the actual standard to be applied for overturning calls and non-calls or pass interference. The bar started in one place, changed significantly when the regular season began, and more recently has adjusted to more closely align with the procedure that Riveron intended to apply before the season started: Literal application of the “clear and obvious” standard to whether significant hindrance occurred.

Now, with Riveron aware that a comprehensive review of his job (including, presumably, whether he should keep it) is coming — and with Riveron aware that everyone else is aware, too — he’s under even more pressure to perform in a manner that staves off the goring of his ox.

That pressure will trickle down to officiating supervisors and on-field officials. Even though the folks who work the games enjoy union protection, the threat/promise of dramatic changes to their job necessarily adds real pressure to do their jobs in a way that keeps them from being unchanged.

Maybe the extra pressure will create a diamond or two. Maybe it will burst a pipe, or three. Either way, one of the most important functions in all of football rides on the question of whether this shot across the bow will inadvertently cause the ship to run aground before the league can get it back on course.

61 responses to “Looming “top-down review” of officiating puts even more pressure on officiating

  1. Lip service. The NFL got what it wanted in last year’s NFC Championship: an LA team in the Super Bowl. They got the better story in the Packers vs Lions this year (Rodgers’ “comeback” sells better than Stafford holding on to a lead).

    The zebras deliver when the NFL tells them to. Why would the NFL want to change that?

  2. It’s virtually impossible to expect anyone to get every call exactly correct in real time when things happen in a split second, and we’re talking about mere inches when it comes to whether or not a guys toe was on which side of a white line. Thats what replay was supposed to be about it was supposed to help correct calls that were impossible to get right in real time, but now people wanna expand it into something it wasn’t meant to be. The game isn’t supposed to be this perfect world of righteousness where every holding penalty is flagged, and he said a bad word to me did you get it on audio thats a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct blah blah blah. When New York gets the call to take a look there needs to be more than 1 guy sitting in that control booth looking at the play. The announcers are telling the TV audience what they think, and sometimes it appears clear as day, and then New York comes back and says something entirely different it makes no sense. They’re making this harder than it needs to be

  3. Accountability? What an odd concept. The officiating overall this year from what I have seen, has been atrocious. New England being literally robbed of two touchdowns on Sunday is a perfect example. Why blow a fumble recovery dead? Why call Harry out of bounds on a scoring play? Just two examples.

  4. Well, for the most part, they have been pretty poor & inconsistent all year long…. basically leaving fans wondering what the rules are & what is & isn’t a penalty that use to be obvious to us……they need to do a better job…. a MUCH BETTER JOB on their chose profession & must be held accountable as everyone else in the real world is!!!

  5. The sky is always falling with this guy.

    He has been predicting the total demise of the NFL for 18 years now.

  6. Across the board….Do away with instant replay.
    Empower the referees/umpires to be the best they can, with an understanding they aren’t perfect. Mistakes happen
    And the important part, hold them publicly responsible through a ranking system.
    Figure out the good ones and get rid of the bad ones.

  7. You want to fix it… do away with ALL reviews. At the same time do not show replays in the stadium or on broadcasts (yes I know people will still be able to see the replay via DVR and other sources) and hold officials accountable when bad decisions are made. Do this and I can live with the occasional bad or missed call. The only other option is an official in the booth ringing in when he sees a mistake.

  8. The NFL needs to understand that the refs are the face of the league. Improvement of officiating is not just personnel related but can be greatly improved by simplifying the rules with the goal of reducing judgement calls.

  9. The league should not be playing into the hands of the conspiracy theory nuts who claim that the games are fixed. Instead, the league should support the officials and state the obvious to the tinfoil hat crowd – mistakes happen, live with them.

  10. scooby7501 says:
    December 11, 2019 at 7:39 am
    Across the board….Do away with instant replay.
    Empower the referees/umpires to be the best they can, with an understanding they aren’t perfect. Mistakes happen
    And the important part, hold them publicly responsible through a ranking system.
    Figure out the good ones and get rid of the bad ones.
    ——————–
    I like this. A lot!! In addition, tell the networks/stadiums to do away with frame by frame, slow-mo replays. Show a full-speed replay and move on!

  11. Replay does make officials look way worse because it changes the definition of obvious. Things are way more obvious when it’s zoomed in on slow motion. The NFL needs to take advantage of this technology though, and make sure these egregiously bad calls are consistently taken care of and fixed, one way or another. There’s no way these obvious calls should slide when everyone gets a front row seat to every call, yet inconsistent half measures and experiments like the PI reviews are stupid and just cause more inconsistencies to arise. Refereeing is human and is going to have errors but the huge ones that happen so often recently are unacceptable.

  12. I understand that the game is getting tougher to officiate with the players getting bigger, stronger and faster. But I can’t help but get this gnawing feeling that gambling is more involved in the game than anyone knows. It’s hard for me to believe that the refs could get so inconsistent in such a short period of time. I also think replay works, but I would suggest that they not be allowed to review everything in slow motion. They should only be allowed to see in full speed like the officials do.

  13. Imagine if the people posting on here were held to the same micro-scrutiny these officials were at their job. Think about instant replay on every email, meeting notes, proposal, spreadsheet, website, & conversation.

    People on the internet act like they are held to such perfect standards in their day-to-day jobs…it’s just not true. Most people are held to an average standard, and to be truthful, the vast majority of people like it that way.

  14. You know what was a great idea? The hastily added pass interference challenge.
    That worked like a charm, right? Bwahahaha.

    Anyone else looking for a flag after every 3rd down play?

  15. It’s virtually impossible to expect anyone to get every call exactly correct in real time when things happen in a split second, and we’re talking about mere inches when it comes to whether or not a guys toe was on which side of a white line. Thats what replay was supposed to be about it was supposed to help correct calls that were impossible to get right in real time, but now people wanna expand it into something it wasn’t meant to be. The game isn’t supposed to be this perfect world of righteousness where every holding penalty is flagged, and he said a bad word to me did you get it on audio thats a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct blah blah blah. When New York gets the call to take a look there needs to be more than 1 guy sitting in that control booth looking at the play. The announcers are telling the TV audience what they think, and sometimes it appears clear as day, and then New York comes back and says something entirely different it makes no sense. They’re making this harder than it needs to be

  16. Getting rid of instant replay would be a disaster and a huge step backward. The technology is there, use it! That would only make it easier to fix games. If you believe it isn’t happening, you are blind as a damn bat. These guys are ” union ” and think they can’t be touched. Al Riveron calling the shots from New York is a complete joke. This is a HUGE problem for the NFL and the officiating being so grossly out of order is causing more and more fans to look closer at the refs. They do choose sides ( whether they are told to make games competitive for ratings or push one team over the other by the NFL itself or not ) Sometimes, it’s just too obvious. If they are challenged, they tend to give the team that challenged them hell the rest of the game. Shaving seconds off the clock with ball placement in the last two minutes of a game is another issue.

    Sure you can keep telling yourself that in the game of football there are plenty of opportunities to win a game, despite officiating and bad calls. This is partly true, PARTLY. Bad officiating can and will cost at team a win regardless. Anything can happen throughout a game…less legit penalties….don’t fumble, etc. BUT…the refs and their calls and how they manage a game can also sink a ship really fast. They can swing the momentum in either direction, they can take seconds off the clock by ” getting set up ” or ” ball placement ” They can make it easier for a team to score with bs holding calls, non pass interference calls, etc. That door swings both ways.

  17. When it gets to the point as a fan watching the game the first thing you look for after or listen for after a 1st down run or 3rd down pass play is a penalty flag.
    And I don’t know about anyone else I honestly do not get happy about a play until I see the clock still running which means there was not a late flag or something.
    The officials have a tough job for sure but they have gotten worse and worse. You know all those guys that work for the networks now?? Well they saw the writing on the wall and got out before it’s gotten to this point.
    1st thing that should happen is make them ALL full time employees and also hold them accountable with fines and suspensions with no pay when they have a pattern of bad calls or non calls.
    It’s clear that when you watch a Bengals vs Jets game or a Miami vs another scrub team the officials working the game are the lowest of low on the totem pole. That tells us all that the league has a rating system for the officials right?? Well then they should be able to hold them accountable and fine them for poor performance. Players and coaches lose their jobs for poor performance, it’s time for the team in stripes to start being held accountable.

  18. After the most anticipated game of the week (KC/NE) ended up with that display two things needed to happen:

    A) the league needed to quickly establish a Patriots “scandal” to get headlines away from what occurred during that game

    B) the league needed to leak something about “making officiating better” to get some “we’re making everything better” headlines

    I’d say they’ve done a bang up job, wouldn’t you? I mean ‘Murica is buying it hook, line and sinker.

  19. Since so many of the calls are judgement what do they expect to find? Walt Anderson’s crew calls 20 penalties a game and another crew calls 8? I presume that like many of other fans I keep waiting for a flag on play after play to see if there’s a drive changing penalty being called. Riveron, IMO, at best has an impossible job to do .

  20. Yeah…how dare anyone put pressure on officials to properly officiate games. That’s just crazy!

  21. “Replay review of pass interference has made his job even more difficult, adding a much more convoluted type of analysis to the mix, with subjective calls now subject to second-guessing through frame-by-frame analysis of available visual evidence”.
    “Making his job even more difficult are the shifting sands of the actual standard to be applied for overturning calls and non-calls or pass interference”.
    ——————————————————————————–
    But somehow, the CFL can handle this incredibly “difficult” task and get the call right 95% of the time. This pass interference discussion just gets more ridiculous each and every week. It’s NOT that difficult. Just look north.

  22. I am sorry, but Goodell is a LIAR. In the Chiefs/Pats game, Goodell had those refs changing rules during the game again to negatively affect NE.

    It’s one thing to have a bad call, miss one, question a borderline call like we all do, etc.

    But, it’s another to have the offixials do things past protocol and/or change the rules for what seems to be reasons that are geared to assist the other team.

    That’s the problem. There is no way officals who are paid 6+ figures as a part time job, should be this horrendous and not be on probation or fired. There’s no way. No one in the working world would ever be able to hold their jobs being this inept and not held accountable at the same time.

    The reason why these idiots still have jobs is because Goodell orders them to help teams, especially playoff bound AFC teams, to cheat the Pats.

    We’ve seen this before, especially late in the year, when it comes to seeding. Goodell and the owners want to block NE from hosting a home game in the postseason.

  23. vavikingfan says:
    December 11, 2019 at 8:47 am
    Since so many of the calls are judgement what do they expect to find? Walt Anderson’s crew calls 20 penalties a game and another crew calls 8? I presume that like many of other fans I keep waiting for a flag on play after play to see if there’s a drive changing penalty being called. Riveron, IMO, at best has an impossible job to do .

    0 3 Rate This

    ———————-

    Not knowing rules or protocols HAS NOTHING to do with any judgment calls.

  24. Lots of ticky-tack minor penalties are called.
    But then blatant calls are missed, and that’s what pisses off fans.

    I don’t expect officials to be perfect, but when they call so many penalties on minor infractions and miss major ones it really highlights a problem.

    Stop worrying so much about the minor infractions and make sure you get the major ones correct.

  25. *yawn*

    This will come back saying the Refs are doing an outstanding job. Status quo for the NFL. It’s clear as day that the refs suck and tweaking to the system needs to be done.

  26. This is what I call the “Saints Got Robbed” rule. This same thing happened with the body weight on the QB rule, also known as the “Aaron Rodgers Crybaby” rule, and also with the Megatron catch rule. One bad play makes the NFL knee-jerk overreact, they implement new rules, then the new rules are terribly screwed up and called unfairly or illogically for three quarters of a season, and by the time they get it figured out near the playoffs, they’ve screwed a dozen teams already trying to figure out how to call penalties under the new rules. But at least they got it figured out, right? WRONG. Next year, it starts all over again.

    A corporation as big as the NFL should be able to figure this out.

  27. Roger should be embarrassed with the way games have been officiated this season. Multiple games have been decided by poor officiation. There don’t seem to be repercussions or changes.
    The NFL succeed despite G’del not because of him. His rule changes and approach to meddling in games has changed outcomes. That should not be how things go.

    We need fulltime officials who spend the offseason reviewing every call made the previous year. As is, we’re asking older gentlemen and ladies to keep pace with the world’s top athletes. Something needs to be done and it isn’t more league control.

  28. “Most people are held to an average standard, and to be truthful, they like it that way”
    ___________

    So true, and this is because most people are lucky to be able to meet an average standard. If the officiating critics had every aspect of their job performance held to a standard of excellence they would be fired in a day.

  29. NE game buffoonery was the last straw. Riveron must have been wincing during the 4th quarter.

    Plus, the league and 31 owners should never have caved to Payton Pressure and created a monster called the OPI/DPI rule.

  30. I watch a lot of college football, and from what I’ve seen, the “sky judge” system they use works great. I’m convinced the only reason the NFL has not adopted the college system is that he league does not want to be seen as adopting an innovation from the “lower” level of play, which is ridiculous when you see NFL coaches adopting college game plans.

  31. But first, there will be a committee formed to define “top down review”. What constitutes “top”? What exactly is “down”? Is “review” a judgement decision? Is the review “reviewable”?
    But even before that, they need to determine what a “committee” should consist of? That will require a “task force”. But, what is a “task”? What happens if there is excessive “force”?
    It all sounds like a challenge….uh oh!

  32. They should have a bottoms up review and start with the firing of Jerome Boger which would be about 15 years overdue.

  33. The NFL is a TV league. The dollars flow from TV and that is where the overwhelming majority of the fan base connects to the game. That being said, the NFL is out of sinc with their TV base. You can’t stop a game for 5 minutes for Riveron to look at a play, bad TV. You can’t have a never ending litany of complaint on the part of the broadcasters, bad TV. You can’t have games lasting 3 1/2 hours, bad TV. You can’t have the never ending replays shown to the fans indicate that the game was decided by someone other than the player/coaches, bad TV.
    The first and immediate fix: go back to the clear and obvious standard giving video review a maximum of 30 seconds. If it is clear and obvious that is plenty of time and if it isn’t, move on!
    Make the video review specialist objective, meaning he isn’t connected to the refs. Having Riveron, or anyone else that would be in his position make the decisions is never going to be objective. And yes, clean house with the refs. Some of the crews average close to 70 years by the looks of them. No way they should be expected to see, move, and think at the required speed.

  34. I’m confused. Every time that there is a bad call on the field, the announcers have an instant replay system that shows them what happened within 10 seconds, making the call obvious. Why can’t there be something like that for like a head ref or something?

  35. One thing I would love to see addressed: the DPI call on underthrown passes. THe DB is on the WRs hip at high speed, the QB underthrows the ball, the WR slows down rapidly in order to adjust to the underthrown ball, the DB runs through the WR. Happens all the time. Smart WRs are wising up & are slowing down even on non-underthrown balls because they know the DB is at full speed & will run through them. If a WR & DB are both running together full speed & the sudden deceleration of the WR causes the DB to run into him that should not be DPI.

  36. Televise the Reviews of the referees in this will be must See TV!!
    Forget the super bowl or Thanksgiving, this will generate a world record for viewer ratings

  37. The odds that all the bogus calls result from incompetence is pretty slim. It is a difficult job but the consistency of mistakes surrounding key game-altering plays begs scrutiny. The replay fiascoes happen watching slo-mo replays that all the rest of us can plainly see as well. The speed of the game is not a factor on replay. There is no excuse. If there is any reasonable argument for each side then the call stands. Fans could accept that standard but the league uses it only when convenient. In other cases the league ignores that standard, makes a disputed ruling and then points to one aspect of a vaguely written rule. In a similar situation in another game a few minutes later, the league makes the opposite ruling and cites a different aspect of that same vague rule. This is not a difference of opinion between men on different crews. This is the SAME GUY making both calls. It happens over and over again throughout the year. The frequency and conflicting rulings indicate that there are factors impacting the games that are beyond just analyzing the play against the rules. THAT is what fans get mad about and the league no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to officiating, or more specifically, replay reviews. FIX IT

  38. You can almost put an * on this entire season. The amount of results that have been influenced by horrible officiating this year has been staggering, even by the NFl’s “standards.” I’ve been tuning in less and less as the weeks pass.

  39. When a review is initiated go straight to the room in New York, get rid of the referee going “under the hood”. This should speed up the whole process immensely. This comes with a GIANT caveat – the room in New York is not only televised, but the officials viewing/discussing the review are mic’d up.

    Fans want calls made quickly, and they want to understand why they’re being made.

  40. What I find interesting is that the guys announcing the game can see the problem with officiating and sometimes remark about it. They can call a better game from the booth than Al Riveron can from a monitor in New York.

    I also find it amusing when the ” older ” refs are saying it’s not a catch or a touchdown and the younger ref runs right up in his face and says it is.

    It’s a joke…a complete joke. The fans are the ones being robbed. It’s like the government, how many people actually believes what the government tells you is 100% true? Hardly anyone anymore. It’s the same with the NFL now, it’s no better than WWE.

  41. Is officiating even reviewable? I think it’s a judgment call, like forward progress.

    In any case I predict that the system will stand as called.

  42. it’s time to accept the fact that the modern day NFL is entertainment and all about ratings. Need east coast vs west coast for best ratings. Refs can see to that. No calls is the easiest way …Just do not call offensive holding on the team you want to win, and give the QB time to find an open receiver. Call Pass interference if he does not catch it.

  43. Human officiating is not so far from being extinct anyway. Cameras will take over, uniforms will flash the offenders numbers and mostly like NASA can fly using a monkey only one ball grunt will be needed to place the ball back into play.

  44. Oh wait, so someone is supposed to perform their job up to the acceptable standard now that they’re going to be reviewed and held accountable? I didn’t know that was such a new concept to being competent at one’s job.

  45. Instant reply in front of NFL officials for every TD. Takes just a few seconds to see what all TV viewers see. Call down to field officials for the goof and very little time lost.

    For everything else, dump video replay. It is a crutch that turns good officials into bad/lazy officials. Make them responsible again…

  46. They should watch the Canadian Football League. Very refreshing, entertaining and the number of reviews and flags thrown are just a fraction of what we see in the National Flag League here in the US..

  47. Refs call too much. So, they are looking for too much, so, they are making huge mistakes. See the big picture.
    One crew to another is wildly inconsistent.
    This review is needed and is overdue.

  48. in my business, one that is becoming more and more feminized, when there is a personnel error it never comes to personnel being disciplined. The reach is for a cure for ‘the process.’ The NFL is talking process – not discipline for weak performers.

    I give you today’s tail-chasing NFL.

  49. Whether the NFL admits it, officiating is a problem. Steps to fix, (1) Full-time refs who work in the offseason to perfect their craft, (2) Make any play reviewable while still giving each team a limited number of challenges, and (3) Have dedicated replay official(s) at league offices monitoring games who can buzz in to stop action and address any obvious mistakes. We will see if the league truly wants to make the officiating better.

  50. Someone may take the fall but it won’t be Riveron. Instead, I predict there will be another layer of policy and people put in place to further obscure responsibility and make it impossible to fix without blowing the whole thing up. This is a CYA exercise.

  51. college official here, too much nepotism going on.
    Lets have a meritocracy for officials instead of cronyism and nepotism.

    Weird the nfl officials are unionized yet for college we are “contractors” and we have nfl officials that run our association. Whats good for the goose is good for gander.

  52. As a saints fan, I believe all of this could have been avoided if the NFL had simply held the 2 officials who blew the obvious pass interference call accountable and fired them the next day and if Roger Goodell would’ve publicly addressed the blown call within 24 hrs instead waiting a week hoping it would blow over. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome of course, but at least it would have maintained some sort of integrity in the game itself. The NFL deserves all the fall out from that one mistake.

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