By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL has some flaws with regard to its enforcement of rules. After all, it’s been years since Calvin Johnson made us all wonder what, exactly, is a catch. Dez Bryant stoked that flame even more recently.READ MORE: I-Team: Judge Denies State Police Request To Delay Vaccine Mandate
That is, however, just one particular issue regarding the complicated rulebook in the NFL, a league that’s essentially made it a requirement for all networks to employ at least one officiating expert to help explain the rules in real time during games to fans who might not understand.
But the NFL now has a plan to solve this. And that plan involves placing all of the decision-making into the hands of a man who has never served as an on-field official or referee in any capacity for the NFL.
On Thursday on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell detailed the league’s plan to create a centralized replay system. Instead of requiring the on-field referee to walk over to a replay station on the sideline, an assistant will instead bring a headset and a tablet to the referee on the field so that he can communicate with the league office.
The person on the other end of that headset will be head of officiating Dean Blandino, and he will ultimately make the call.
“We’re going to centralize the replay back here in New York,” Goodell said. “We want the referee’s input. … He can look at the play, be in communication back in our office with Dean Blandino, and Dean Blandino will have the final decision. We think that will move it much quicker.”
Blandino was named vice president of officiating in February 2013 after serving as the director of the league’s instant replay system. He’s worked extensively with the replay review system, but he has notably never been an official on the field.READ MORE: 'He Never Would Tell Us': Gardner Museum Hopeful For New Info After Death Of Connecticut Mobster
While Blandino may well be a qualified voice in the matter, making him the authority is at the very least a notable decision by the NFL. It would be similar, say, to a commissioner with no law degree and no legal history to force himself into a role as an arbitrator in a labor dispute.
Plus, Blandino has not always cloaked himself in glory during his regular appearances on “Official Review” on NFL Network, where he largely defends the decisions made on the field, no matter how objectively incorrect they may have been. In the rare instances that Blandino does criticize a wrong call made on the field, it typically comes in a much more covert format, so as not to draw too much attention.
Inserting Blandino into such a role is noteworthy because the referees’ union and NFL are already a bit at odds regarding the potential of making officials full-time employees. Raising Blandino’s importance in the officiating process might not sit well with the NFLRA. As most fans remember from the replacement referee days of 2012, the league and the union don’t always see eye-to-eye on matters.
An anonymous former NFL official told ESPN in 2015 that there was a growing resentment of Blandino among the on-field officials.
“The animosity is starting, because he’s having to make the tough decisions and he is a company man and he’s not siding with the officials. The officials kind of feel that, ‘Well, you’ve never been on the field,'” the official said. “It’s a tough position. It’s a no-win situation.”
Blandino also created an image of apparent conflict of interest when he was seen on a Dallas Cowboys party bus in 2014.
Blandino also lied publicly about DeflateGate.MORE NEWS: 'Excited For The Future': Team IMPACT Celebrates 10 Years At Gillette Stadium