NFL to retain head of officiating Al Riveron for 2018 despite shaky first season

Dean Blandino stepped down as the NFL's head of officiating before the season, but the league's officiating problems still persisted under Al Riveron in 2017 -- another year filled with controversial replay reviews involving the always polarizing catch rule and of course, the infamous "index card game" just last month. Despite Riveron's shaky first season filling Blandino's role, his job is safe heading into the 2018 season.

On Tuesday, a league spokesman told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the NFL will retain Riveron as its senior vice president of officiating with the support of commissioner Roger Goodell.

Riveron endured arguably even more criticism than Blandino because unlike Blandino, Riveron was granted full power to make final replay-review decisions. His decisions to overturn Steelers tight end Jesse James' apparent game-winning touchdown against the Patriots in Week 15 and Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin's seemingly obvious touchdown against the Patriots in Week 16 drew the ire of onlookers -- to name just two of many controversial moments this season.

And then there was the "index card game," when referee Gene Steratore decided to use an index card to measure a crucial first down in the fourth quarter of a high stakes Week 15 game between the Cowboys and Raiders. Riveron, of course, had nothing to do with Steratore's in-game unorthodox measurement system and it's worth noting that Riveron quickly made it clear to officials that they should not copy Steratore's method.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn't really matter who has the power to make replay decisions because the person who holds the job will endure endless criticism regardless of the way they rule. The root of the problem is probably the complicated, ambiguous nature of the catch rule and how almost every slow-motion instant replay reveals a bobble of some sort. Those who make the decisions are prone to making bad ones, but they're being forced to make a ruling based on a complicated and unclear rule. Whenever a replay rule is initiated, public opinion is almost always divided on the final ruling. There probably isn't a way to satisfy everyone.

That doesn't mean Riveron did a flawless job in his first season. What should've been obvious is that replay decisions often dragged on for far too long, killing the flow of the game, and some have argued that Riveron wielded his power too strongly by overturning calls without indisputable evidence. It just means he has a tough job and replacing him probably wouldn't fix the inherent flaws of the system.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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