One of the most overlooked and underreported developments in recent weeks relates to the significant changes in the league’s all-important replay-review function. The new-look process held up pretty well in Week One.
No major controversies emerged. No instances of the standard (clear and obvious evidence of an error) went overlooked. In the Vikings-Bengals game, it appeared that running back Dalvin Cook hadn’t fumbled the ball in overtime — and the decision took a while — but the end result was the right one. No available angle showed Cook down before he lost the ball, even though he likely was.
It’s not bad, given the personnel changes. Al Riveron, who led the replay function from 2017 through 2020, is gone. His top lieutenant, Russell Yurk, also is gone. Via Ben Austro of FootballZebras.com, Yurk has taken a voluntary administrative leave. Per the report, Yurk had decided against receiving the COVID vaccine. It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that the two are related.
Former referee Walt Anderson is the primary person responsible for replay, with Perry Fewell serving as the top assistant. Others may help during the windows with multiple games, which could have multiple concurrent reviews. But Anderson or Fewell will be involved in each decision.
During standalone games, all replay reviews will be handled by Anderson and Fewell, with Anderson having final say where applicable.
Again, so far it has worked. The biggest challenge always has been, and always will be, resisting the urge to officiate the play from scratch and to stay sober as a judge when finding that 50 drunks in a bar would have agreed that the officials made a mistake.