Longtime coach Perry Fewell has joined the NFL league office for a job that will include supervision of the officiating department, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Fewell served as the Carolina Panthers‘ interim head coach in 2019. He has no experience as an official but follows a long line of prominent coaches who have detoured to the league office between on-field jobs, a list that has included Joe Philbin and Jim Schwartz in recent years.
The 57-year-old Fewell, however, will step into an unusual role in that context.
The NFL decided to shake up the leadership of its officiating department after a 2019 season that included trouble implementing replay review for pass interference. Senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron has retained his job but has been joined by retired referee Walt Anderson, whose title — senior vice president of development and training — puts him at equal standing on the league’s organizational chart.
Fewell’s title was not immediately clear, and the NFL declined comment. But for months, the league has been searching for candidates to fill a larger role that would take overall responsibility of the department. Sources said Fewell will oversee the day-to-day operations of the officiating department, ensure compliance with the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Referee Association and handle communication with coaches and general managers, among other tasks.
Former NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino was an early target, but the sides did not reach an agreement.
The NFL competition committee did not support an extension of replay review of pass interference, meaning it is likely to be eliminated for the 2020 season. The committee also declined to endorse a sky judge concept to assist on-field officials with their calls.
The NFL’s annual league meetings were canceled last month, but owners are still scheduled to meet May 19-20 in Marina del Rey, California.