NFL officiating czar Al Riveron to return despite criticism


The NFL will retain senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron for the 2018 season, a league spokesman told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Riveron had a bumpy first season in the job after replacing Dean Blandino, who resigned to join Fox Sports. Riveron’s promotion coincided with an NFL initiative to give final say on replay reviews to its New York-based officiating department.

The structure was created with Blandino’s skills in mind; he had spent three seasons preparing in the league’s command center and had been a part of the replay department for 10 years before that. Riveron, a former referee, hired former replay official Russell Yurk to assist him as vice president of replay.

But Blandino and another former officiating chief, Mike Pereira, who is also an analyst for Fox Sports, were at times highly critical of their decisions. They questioned whether Riveron and Yurk had veered away from the standard of supporting the call on the field unless there is “clear and obvious” evidence of a mistake.

The issue came to a head in Week 16, when Riveron and Yurk reversed a touchdown reception by the Buffalo BillsKelvin Benjamin late in the first half of an eventual 37-16 loss to the New England Patriots. A frame-by-frame analysis indicated that Benjamin might not have secured possession until after he stepped out of bounds, but Bills owner Terry Pegula was among those who said replay was never intended to make such precise distinctions.

Not everyone in the NFL disagreed with Riveron’s approach, and some thought he could smooth out the drama with better public explanations. Regardless, the NFL spokesman told Schefter that Riveron will return with the support of commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the league.

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