Former NFL official now the top NFL official
Alberto Riveron replaces Dean Blandino
The NFL tabbed Alberto Riveron to replace Dean Blandino as its new director of officiating Wednesday, giving the league and its officials something of a win-win: The NFL gets continuity as it prepares to centralize its instant-replay system for next season — Riveron was Blandino’s chief lieutenant — while the referees’ union gets someone with actual game experience at the job. Unlike Blandino, Riveron was an NFL official from 2004 to 2013 before his promotion to the league office. The league is hoping that Riveron’s time as Blandino’s top assistant will make the transition easy, though one of the chief responsibilities of the job is anything but: The NFL’s head of officiating is the person who has to take phone calls on Monday mornings from coaches who felt the whistles didn’t go their way the previous day. “As one league official explained, it wasn’t uncommon for a furious coach to call 345 Park Avenue on a Monday morning and hang up 10 minutes later satisfied after talking to Blandino,” MMQB’s Albert Breer wrote earlier this month. Riveron, who immigrated from Cuba when he was 5 years old and was the first NFL referee of Hispanic descent, also will be the public face of the NFL’s referees. In other words, the one who has to explain to everyone why a call was made or why one wasn’t. Per the NFL, Alberto Riveron will serve as the conduit to fans and media regarding officiating decisions and rules interpretations. “Al has done a terrific job as a key member of our officiating staff for the past four seasons,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Prior to that, Al was an outstanding on-field official who earned the respect of his fellow officials, as well as coaches and players alike. To have Al leading our officiating department, and then to add talented, knowledgeable instant replay and officiating experts like Russell and Wayne, is a tremendous positive for us as we look forward to the 2017 season.” But the NFL will make Riveron’s job a little easier by splitting up the responsibilities that Blandino had. While Riveron takes on the front-facing aspects of the job, Russell Yurk was named vice-president of instant replay and administration. It’s a key job, as the NFL’s owners voted in March to centralize instant-replay calls in the league’s office to make them more efficient and consistent. Russell Yurk, who has spent the past seven seasons as an NFL replay official, will now have final say in making those replay calls, taking the responsibility out of the hands of referees who no longer will be going under the hood during games. Plus, 10-year NFL officiating veteran Wayne Mackie will head up the league’s evaluation and development department, which grades officials based on their on-field performance.
Alberto Riveron makes a call in a 2011 game. The NFL has promoted Riveron to its head of officiating.