BY BARRY WILNER
NEW YORK (AP) — Dean Blandino, the NFL officiating director who has overseen rule changes that emphasized player safety, is leaving the league.
The 45-year-old Blandino wants to spend more time with his family and explore other opportunities. He has young children and the job demands limited his time with them and his wife.
He has been the league’s vice president of officiating since 2013. Blandino joined the NFL in 1994 as an intern and moved through the ranks.
“Dean has done an outstanding job leading our officiating department,” Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said Friday after informing the 32 teams of Blandino’s decision. “He has been a trusted colleague and a friend to so many of us around the league.
“Dean’s knowledge of the playing rules, his tireless commitment to improving the quality of NFL officiating, and his unquestioned dedication to his job has earned him the respect of the entire football community.”
Blandino was an instant replay official from 1999-2003 and worked two Super Bowls and two conference championship games. He managed the NFL’s instant replay program from 2003-2009, and from 2007-2009 he was director of officiating, supervising day-to-day operations and the game officials’ schedule under Mike Pereira.
He left the NFL in 2009 to form his own company, returned in 2012 and succeeded Carl Johnson as chief of officiating the next year.
During his three years away from the NFL, Blandino launched “Under the Hood,” which provided training and evaluation for replay officials. His clients included the NFL and college conferences such as the Big Ten, Mid-American, Pac-12, Big 12, and Mountain West. He directed instant replay clinics for the NFL and NCAA and served as a liaison to the NFL’s competition committee.
That is a possible avenue if he returns to the game, or he could follow Pereira into broadcasting. Pereira is a Fox analyst and essentially created a platform for former officiating executives.
Blandino has been a strong voice on the powerful competition committee that suggests rules changes. Those changes have included eliminating chop blocks; decreasing the number of kickoff returns — football’s most dangerous play statistically — by moving up the kickoff; and expansion of defenseless player parameters to include snappers and other players.
This season, the use of Surface tablets by referees for video replay will be instituted. Under Blandino, the NFL’s central office in New York has conferred with referees on replay decisions since 2014. Now, that office, albeit without Blandino, will make the final call.
Blandino also been open with the teams, media and public when officiating errors have been made, while also staunchly defending his officials when their calls have been correct.
Among the other noteworthy moves by his officiating department was the hiring of line judge Sarah Thomas as the first full-time official in 2015.
Vincent immediately began a search for Blandino’s successor.
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