Pereira on officiating, replay: “Is system broken? I think it is”


For nine years, Mike Pereira headed the NFL’s officiating department. Then, following the 2009 season, he left New York to become the rules analyst for FOX Sports in a move that created such an enormous impact that former USA Today columnist Rudy Martzke called it “the best hire in generations.”

Translation: When Mike Pereira speaks, we listen.

And when he criticizes today’s officiating, it has our attention … and he criticized it more this season than any we can remember. The reason? Ah, that’s what we asked when he appeared on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

“The longer I am away from the office … and it’s been eight years now … the more I’ve transitioned to becoming a fan,” he said. “Not just an analyst but a fan. And the more I become a fan the more frustrated I get.

“When I get to playoffs … like we’re in now … and they started the way they did, it was very frustrating for me. Because some of the mistakes that were made were just .. there’s no excuse for them. They were not all just straight judgment mistakes.

“They were announcement mistakes. There was the loss of a spot by a great official who threw a flag and then failed to continue to officiate. And then when they picked up the flag, then they didn’t know where to put the ball. Those types of things are really … I mean, the officials all know. That’s just the type of stuff that shouldn’t happen in the preseason, much less the postseason.”

So, then, the obvious question is: Is the system broken?

Officiating has moved front and center as replay has become more involved, and the results haven’t been good — with few certain what constitutes a catch and fans complaining about the inconsistency of calls. Moreover, there’s no flow to games, as turnovers, touchdowns and challenges are reviewed by replay decisions that are too frequent and too long.

“Is the system broken? I think it is,” said Pereira. “Because the system was designed for somebody else to be sitting in that chair in New York (for replay reviews at league headquarters). Replay has created, really, the bulk of the major controversies this year, and the owners and the competition committee … they resolved to let New York make the decision totally this year. And then New York had the final say.

Is the system broken? I think it is. Because the system was designed for somebody else to be sitting in that chair in New York (for replay reviews).

“But when they did that in April … and when they did that in March at the competition committee meetings … it was all designed with the notion that (former NFL head of officiating) Dean Blandino was going to be the one that was sitting in that chair. He’s the guru of replay. No one understands replay better than he does.

“There’s a reason why he was at the national championship game when Alabama and Georgia played — because he is a college replay trainer also and works with the Big Ten. So it was designed for him to implement this new system, and it was thrust in his absence on (the league’s senior VP of officiating) Alberto Riveron and his first lieutenant, Russell Yurk. And I don’t think they were ready — and the decisions, really, in my mind, have reflected that.

“So, from that aspect alone, I think the system is broken, And it’s either going to take more experience on their part — and I’m thinking back to Dean being involved with replay since 1999 and putting the system together when it first came back. So it’s going to take more experience on their part and maybe even a greater look into how it could work better.

“Is it working good enough … or does it have the potential to work good enough … with Riveron and Yurk making these decisions? Or is it time to look and say, ‘We need to get the referee more involved again?’ Or why not take a look at it totally and say, ‘Might we be interested in the model of major-league baseball, and rotate referees and downfield officials into the office on their ‘off’ weekends so they can make the decisions?’ They’re the ones making the calls initially on the field.

“I think you have to look at everything … I think it’s a very critical — maybe THE most critical — offseason in the NFL when it comes to officiating, the rules and the department and replay.”

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