No Longer Your Dad’s NFL

Shawn Hochuli—the son of Ed—is all but guaranteed to be working on Sundays this fall, just as officiating undergoes a major overhaul ... plus, Johnny Football’s pro day, Jim Kelly’s latest battle, the sad saga of Mark Sanchez and more

ORLANDO, Fla. — The news here this week at the annual NFL meetings at a ritzy Ritz in central Florida? Officiating and an effort to create a more virtuous culture. That’s what you’ll be reading and hearing about from the meetings. Not expanding the playoffs from 12 teams to 14, which won’t happen until at least 2015. Not the push by the Patriots and some others to move the PAT from the 2-yard line to the 25. So that means officiating czar Dean Blandino is going to be the star of these meetings, not Roger Goodell or the rulesmeisters, Rich McKay or Jeff Fisher. 

I’ll get to the virtue stuff in a bit. At the risk of writing too much about officiating, I’m going to do it again this week. The league has been working hard behind the scenes to improve the consistency of the replay system, as well as the communication between the seven officials on the field during games. In a 30-minute conversation with Blandino on Sunday night, he told me that members of the league’s 17 officiating crews will be able to talk to each other on the field during games. 

“We’re going to implement an official-to-official communications system, so all seven officials can communicate wirelessly,” Blandino said. “Each official will have an earpiece, a microphone, and just a little radio pack where they can communicate in a closed system, encrypted. 

“We’ve tested this the last two years, and we feel it gives us better communication, more efficient communication pre-snap—when you’re talking about coverages, especially downfield when you have three downfield officials. Who’s covering what receiver? Now they read the formation, they decide which receiver they’re going to cover, but there’s no check and balance. They’re 30, 40 yards away from the other officials they might need to talk to. Now they can communicate. ‘I’ve got the widest guy, I’ve got the second guy inside.’ ”

The benefit after the play, Blandino said, is that a back judge who sees pass interference from behind the line of scrimmage will no longer have to run 25 or 30 yards to tell the referee whom the flag is on. The system is not an open mike [that proved chaotic during preseason trials] but rather a push-to-talk system. In my example, the back judge would push his button and say to the ref, “I’ve got a DPI [defensive pass interference] on 24 Baltimore,” and save a few seconds. Said Blandino, “It’s just a natural progression in communications improvement.”

Replays are going to be fast and furious, and the officiating command center had better hope three reviews—or more—never happen simultaneously out of commercial.

That’s an inside-football change most fans won’t notice. The league hopes the major replay proposal gets passed—and that fans won’t notice this one either. Most often, fans only notice replay when it is administered differently by different crews. If the replay tweak that the Competition Committee hopes to see passed is indeed approved—allowing the NFL officiating department to have a hand in replay decisions—consistency should improve in 2014. 

The replay proposal would work this way: Once the game referee announces on the field that he will be reviewing a play, a communications line from the league office will go live in the ref’s ear. On the other end he’ll have either Blandino or the NFL’s senior director of officiating, Alberto Riveron, a former ref. (In the case of simultaneous replays, Blandino can talk to one ref and Riveron the other. Blandino said there was never an instance in 2013 of three replays occurring simultaneously without the benefit of a TV timeout that enabled at least one of them to be put on hold for a few seconds, while the other two could be properly adjudicated.) 

“Between me and Al Riveron,” Blandino said, “we feel we can adjudicate multiple reviews going on at once. Over 65 percent of our reviews go to TV break anyway, so we have a built-in two-minute window [to help us].” 

On replays, refs such as Jeff Triplette will be connected to NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino in the league office. (David Richard/Icon SMI; Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)
On all replays, refs such as Jeff Triplette (top) will be connected to NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino in the league office. (David Richard/Icon SMI; Casey Sapio/USA TODAY Sports)

One big benefit of communicating with the referee before he goes under the hood is that another set of eyes can use the extra time to study the play and advise him. While a coach throws a challenge flag, and while the referee goes over to hear what the coach wants to challenge—and while the ref gets into position and announces the challenge—Blandino might have already had the chance to see three or four replays. So as the ref jogs over to the monitor to see the replays for himself and judge the call, he can have two men who sit in judgment of all refs, Blandino and Riveron, scout the play to advise him on the best angles to watch.

“We can start reviewing it even before the challenge is initiated,” Blandino said. “Once a challenge is initiated, we would be in communication with the replay official. What is the issue? What are the angles we want to show the ref? Once the ref is done talking to the coach and making the announcement, now the ref can be a part of that conversation. We feel a lot of times we can have it set up and a direction for the referee before he even gets [under the hood].” 

The issue came to the fore with a bad replay decision by ref Jeff Triplette last year in Cincinnati on a close play at the goal line. “That call obviously was a mistake,” said Blandino. “We have 17 referees and obviously we have a standard that’s consistent with visual evidence. But maybe all of our 17 referees … they’re not going to be 100 percent consistent. We know that some people may interpret certain plays a certain way. We feel from a standardization point and a consistency point, there’s a handful of people in New York who can oversee the process. We’re going to make more consistent decisions. In every review we will be part of the conversation.” 

The NFL handled 423 replay reviews last year, about 1.6 per game. In the busiest time slot, early in the afternoon on Sundays, there can be as many as 10 games going on at once. It’s going to be fast and furious, and the officiating command center had better hope three reviews—or more—never happen simultaneously out of commercial. 

Now for the logical question: When will the league go to centralized officiating review out of New York, with all replay reviews being handled in-house by Blandino’s staff? Hockey does it that way. Baseball will start doing it that way this year. 

“We want to look at how the consult process goes,” Blandino said. “Maybe there’s some unintended consequences of what we’re proposing. In hockey they have far fewer reviews. They all revolve around goals, for the most part. In our game, the biggest issue is inside the last two minutes, when the replay official has to initiate a review of a play. To do that in New York, how would we initiate a review of the play without actually being there to see it take place? That’s probably the biggest hurdle to going to a fully centralized operation.”

The NHL has shown that the disconnect between the ice and Toronto is unimportant; all that matters is getting the play right. Eventually, I think the NFL moves replay review to New York, run by Blandino. The first step is making sure Blandino and Riveron don’t exacerbate the inconsistency of replay reviews by making a Triplette-like error. You never know, because of the whole human-error thing. But I think the extra set of eyes in New York will help the process.

* * *

Guns Junior Is on the Way

    Ed Hochuli (l.) could officiate alongside his son Shawn this fall. (John W. McDonough/SI/The MMQB; Orlando Ramirez/Icon SMI)
Ed Hochuli (l.) could officiate alongside his son Shawn this fall. (John W. McDonough/SI/The MMQB; Orlando Ramirez/Icon SMI)

The worst-kept secret around the NFL is no long under wraps: If he passes his physical and his background check, Shawn Hochuli, son of Ed “Biceps of Stone” Hochuli, will make his NFL officiating debut this fall. That’s what Blandino told me Sunday night.

“We’ve hired or extended offers to some of the officials in our advanced development program,” said Blandino. “But it is contingent on a physical exam, and then we take it to the next level with the background check. But once that clears, yes, we have offered Shawn a position.”

“Will he be on his dad’s crew?” I asked.

“That remains to be seen,” Blandino said. “I’m leaning in one direction, but we’ll see.”

Ed Hochuli, 63, enters his 25th NFL officiating season this fall. His son has been a back judge and referee in the Pac-12 and has been a prospect in the league’s developmental program. No word if he’s as verbose (hey, I like the verbosity!) as his dad. And though he looks to be in good shape, Shawn’s no match for the pumped-up Ed Hochuli.

* * *

Here’s ‘How’

The league’s coaches and general managers will hear about team-building and sportsmanship this morning from a man named Dov Seidman, an ethicist and author of HOW: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything. That’s in line with the initiative Goodell and others in the league are working on, to improve the locker-room culture and ensure that no Incognito-Martin scandals happen again.

Seidman was the keynote speaker addressing the league Sunday evening—the NFL has been big on stars like Bill Clinton and Condoleezza Rice in the past, but Seidman’s appearance was fitting this year because of the recent bullying scandal—and he hit some of the notes you’d expect. “Command and control as a way of running a business is gone,” said one league veteran who heard Seidman on Sunday night. “Collaboration is in now … Pete Carroll’s way, we’re all in this together. I think it was a good message on building values and a workplace culture on doing what’s right.”

Expect to hear that as a refrain when owners and club officials talk about the lessons of the week. There’s no doubt the league will soon hand down whatever discipline is coming from the Miami bullying case, and I’m told it’s going to be instructive and treatment-based rather than simply punitive.

* * *

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180 comments
DrJoeS
DrJoeS

Answer to your travel question - many people are inconsiderate rule-avoiding morons.  Unfortunately they also fly with their selfish attitudes.

RickGaille
RickGaille

A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

https://greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/

Jane Doe
Jane Doe

Grand Budapest Hotel may be Wes Anderson's masterpiece.  Must see if you're a fan of his work.  It definitely reached the level of The Royal Tannenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.  

BigBlueJuju
BigBlueJuju

Peter, whatever you were trying to express with your comment about the press coverage of L'Wren Scott's death, you botched it.  Time to apologize.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

I read the story about the Remy's what an awful group of people.  Kids who are violent, abusive, and unremorseful, and parents who enabled the behavior for decades. 


Just bad people. 

DanSteelersFan
DanSteelersFan

How can Raiders fans stand it?  Add Schaub and forgo drafting a potential franchise QB in round 1.  Guaranteeing .500 football at best for the next few years.  It's hard to believe that this team's front office is trying to create a winner.  Did T.Pryor have what it takes to grow into a really good QB?  We'll never know.  How frustrating it must be, to be a part of this organization.

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

Peter I still can't get over the 50 year pass you gave the recently deceased owner of the Detriot Lions he owned the team for 50 years never one nothing and never a bad word from you. Al Davis you ripped him apart weekly was it because he was a republican ?

gary7
gary7

I don't like this ref replay thing, I know it's football but after watching college BB the last 2 weeks where the last 2 minutes take 20-30 minutes to play, I'm tired of these refs getting to much face time and killing the momentum, that college replay needs to be change to 1 challenge per coach in last 2 minutes, and I can see the refs prancing and posing in the NFL when this or that replay goes 5 minutes or longer AND IT WILL...ONE challenge  per team per half, keep replay booth for last 2, I like watching but with this thing now itching closer and closer to 4 hours... and that's too much

fortyfukingniners
fortyfukingniners

You gotta feel for @DHoyt77. He actually follows Roddy White's Twitter feed.




fortyfukingniners
fortyfukingniners

Mr. King;


In your article you appear to suggest the sixth-round picks offered for both Schaub and Gabbert by the Raiders and Niners respectively make the deals somehow comparable. And you imply that, although both deals are questionable, the Niners' deal makes the least sense. Your argument as made is not supportable by the information provided.


1. Gabbert's cap hit is 2 million; Schaub's is 11 million. Gabbert is a farm implement--Schaub is the farm.

2. Gabbert is replacing an unproductive player (McCoy) with a similar cap number and it is anyway hoped he will not see the field in a regular season or playoff game. It's unlikely they will keep him past his current contract.

3  Schaub's numbers are better, but he played for a much better team (excluding 2013-14).

4. Gabbert is eight years younger (only 24) than Schaub (32).

5. I don't imagine a sixth-round pick would even make the Niners team and anyway they have a boatload of picks, most of whom will also be lucky to make the team.

6. Gabbert's a fixer-upper. If he's able to prove himself (increasing his value) the Niners could possible get more in trade than they gave for him.


The Raiders are playing go-big-or-go-home with their gamble on Schaub. With any luck, it won't matter who's holding Kaep's clipboard.


How are these deals in any way comparable?



LenoreJEller
LenoreJEller

like Rodney implied I am inspired that some people able to make $4363 in 4 weeks on the computer . visit their website




---------------ZℯℯJob.COM------------GET-work-at-home---

mikestheref
mikestheref

The NFL is not exempt from the nepotism seen in any other corporate hiring environment. Just goes to show that in life it truly is more of WHO you know than WHAT you know that gets you through the front door.

FerdBerfel
FerdBerfel

If you REALLY want to improve the officiating in the NFL, make the refs full-time employees like every other sports league in the country.  What kind of message are you sending people you want to buy your product when the men charged with maintaining order within that product have to find work elsewhere?  It tells ME, "Go ahead and pay $100 a ticket to watch our game, even though we think so little of it we'll hire the guy who changed your tires Wednesday to officiate our games once a week for four months."

For all the money flowing into the NFL, the way they approach their referees is no different than some Class C high school league in Montana.

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Merril Hoge, QB evaluator?  Really, Peter?  What possibly qualifies an ex-fullback who seems to have taken far too many hits to evaluate Manziel?  We're not talking about Jim Harbaugh, or even Peyton Manning.  Or Archie Manning.   Steve Young.  I don't much like Phil Simms or his half-assed opinions (those of us in the Bay Area still remember him trashing Andrew Luck's arm strength quite clearly two years ago, a point no doubt Phil would like everyone to have forgotten almost immediately.)


And god knows we're not talking about Bill Walsh here and his uncanny sense of any QB prospect.


Merril Hoge?


I have no idea if Manziel will be Russell Wilson or Doug Flutie (of course Flutie was NOT a NFL success, in spite of the east coast nostalgia), but I do know that every year the overwhelming number of NFL Draft "experts" (including Mayock & Kuiper) are wrong, and then they try to distance themselves from every stupid opinion ASAP.


The draft is mostly a crapshoot, with those rare souls like Walsh who are more often right....  But then Walsh picked a number of #1 busts for the 49ers (Earl Cooper, Jim Stuckey, Todd Shell, Terrence Flager, Keith DeLong, Dexter Carter…).


Humility is the way to approach any draft, like so many other things of life.  Think Greek, Peter--it might do you a world of good.


And ignore Merril Hoge on QBs at all cost.

MatthiasGiese
MatthiasGiese

Grand Budapest hotel? Go. This from film buff and director.

jdclark56
jdclark56

Zone 4 goes up to block Zone 5 which has been standing there since they got to the gate.

pk_sea
pk_sea

Peter King, I'd like to hear your thoughts/comments on Mark Cuban's assertion that the NFL will implode in the next ten years due to its greed.

ArthurJBeezwaxIII
ArthurJBeezwaxIII

How about demanding equal enforcement of the rules regardless of what team is playing. The distortion of calls/non calls from one game/team to the next was so obvious it makes it look like there is criminal manipulation going on. Maybe there is, sure looks like it.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

You can't help but notice all these stories about what a great group of guys the referees are. Just one of the gang, you know. Hoping that we will forget that their performance is subpar and has been getting worse for years. Another way, it seems, the NFL is losing credibility. If the league isn't careful we will start comparing them to FIFA.

donald5
donald5

Sounds like a lot of this "push to talk" stuff is to hide the fact that a guy 40 yards away is the one making the garbage PI call.

grizzlypete
grizzlypete

Jeff Triplette needs to be fired. He is incompetent throughout the entire season. How many game changing mistakes is he allowed? 

benseattle
benseattle

This:  <<  Because of the wide disparity of opinions around the NFL (including those among opinion-swayers in the media) about Manziel, this is probably the single most important workout any player will have before the May draft.  >>

"Opinion-swayers in the media?"  You're kidding, right?   I can hear it now in an NFL war room between life-long coaches, expert scouts and veteran talent evauators:  "Hey, are we taking Manziel or not?"   "I'm not sure... I just read that Peter King (or Chris Berman or Mel Kiper) doesn't like him.  We don't dare."

Puffed-up ego much?   Guys who know more about football GOSSIP than actual TALENT now claiming to be influential enough to affect the picks a team makes sounds absolutely ludicrous to me.   I can think of hundreds of examples where "the media" just loved a player who turned out to be a bust and then just crapped all over a guy for some oddball reason and the player turns himself into a starter or a star.    If Peter King or his buddies in the media actually believe that a couple of paragraphs in a column about a particular player are going to supersede what a team's brain trust is going to do, then this is conclusive proof that there is, indeed, such a thing as LSD flashbacks.



DanSteelersFan
DanSteelersFan

I hope they do.  Raiders fans deserve better.  But it won't happen.

MichaelWallis1
MichaelWallis1

@DanSteelersFan, who says they plan on foregoing a quarterback in the first round. They could just be taking a flyer to Schaub and use him as a mentor to the next quarterback they draft. 

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@Raiderforlife  Ford was simply the owner, not the Owner/Manager like Davis or Jerry Jones - 2 examples of meddling owners who ruined their teams. Ford also ran a business that provided millions of jobs and was dedicated to the Michigan area. Of course it has to be because he might be a Republican - typical pea-brained conservative hysterical rant.

KidHorn
KidHorn

@gary7 It seems like after every play near the end of the game they have to reset the clock. OK, I get it, but why does it take 5 minutes?

RickDesper
RickDesper

@FerdBerfel  Full-time employees for, what, at most 25 days of work in a given calendar year?  That would certainly be generous.  

Mike26
Mike26

@FerdBerfel   That would take some guys, good officials, out of college basketball. One is Gene Steratore, one of the top guys in D-1.

Wolfpack
Wolfpack

@DavidHarte  I agree about Merril Hoge.  He seems to have an opinion about everything and none of it positive.  Hasn't he had his "15 minutes of fame" already?  Can we move on to the next washed up NFLer now? 

#TiredOfMerrilHogeRants. 

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@benseattle The media controls the message, and by proxy, in some instances, the draft stock of players.  Many front office types don't like to rock the boat.  If the media is dogging a particular player who is supposed to be a high draft pick, I believe some GM's would shy away from drafting that player based upon the amount of head they'd take from others in the organization and the fanbase.  I'm not saying they should take it into account, I agree they should not.  But I think some of them certainly do.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

@benseattle  But even the players buy into some of it. When Michael Crabtree was holding out on the 49ers before his rookie season he based his worth on how high Mel Kiper had rated him before the draft. That a receiver from U. of Maryland was drafted ahead of him, cost Crabtree a lot of money.

fortyfukingniners
fortyfukingniners

@DanSteelersFan  It's the city of Oakland that deserves better-- better than the Raiders. As a Steeler fan, you must appreciate that Art Rooney built an organization that made Pittsburgh proud. Al Davis (and now his family) have mainly just used Oakland and Alameda County (and their taxpayers). After extorting hundreds of millions in Stadium improvements (while paying ridiculously low rent) from a community that really can't afford it, they are again casting their greedy eyes upon greener pastures. Los Angeles Raiders: it's got a nice sound to it.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@Raiderforlife @fortyfukingniners I don't think he was bashing anyone.  Jus trying to understand how someone like Gabbert receives the same draft pick compensation as someone like Schaub.  All of Forty's points are valid though.

RickDesper
RickDesper

@Rickapolis @benseattle  There's nothing wrong with being from U. of Maryland.  If Crabtree thinks there is, I'm sure his teammate Vernon Davis could explain his error.

The problem was not that Heyward-Bey was a Terp.  It's that the Raiders drafted him for his speed and didn't really make an accurate appraisal of his true potential.  The Raiders took a lot of flak for making that choice.  

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