You know Mike Pereira as the NFL's former vice president of officiating, as well as from his gig expounding on replay reviews every Sunday on Fox Sports. He is one of the most respected rules and officiating analysts out there, and when he says something about an officiating decision or trend, people tend to listen. Pereira has a (relatively) new theory about officiating, and if he's correct, it's not necessarily a great look for the league.
"Officiating is changing before our very eyes," he said, "and I don't know if anyone has recognized it -- except maybe me."
In a conversation this week about his book, "After Further Review," Pereira reiterated and amplified a theory that he first advanced last year -- a premise that makes perfect sense but would undermine the transparency of NFL game administration. According to Pereira, referees regularly receive assistance and advice from replay officials on their wireless headsets, communication that helps them make accurate calls but would be in violation of rules the league itself has published and publicized.
The NFL had no comment beyond providing a copy of the applicable policy, one that allows minimal interaction on game administration but not on the type of every-down decisions that Pereira said have been affected.
Obviously, getting calls correct on the field without having to resort to challenges or replay reviews is not something that many people would be against. I imagine most coaches, players, executives, fans and officials themselves would be strongly in favor of it. But the NFL selectively applying (or actively breaking) its own rules as it pertains to officiating is, again, not a good look.
"It's not necessarily a bad thing," Pereira said. "It's just kind of undercover at the moment. But you can see it. This is the landscape of where officiating is going."
Pereira also said he is not surprised the NFL has remained silent about his allegations of rule-skirting.
"They're never going to come out and admit it because it's not allowed in the rules," he said. "I get that. And I'm not against the notion of trying to get as many calls right as you can, but my only concern is if the rulebook doesn't allow you to do it -- to me, there is a conflict. I get the side of trying to avoid controversy, but I'd rather the rulebook allow it first."
That makes a good deal of sense, especially in a league that so strictly enforces several other rules about what happens on the field. Officials getting help and calls being correct is undoubtedly a desirable outcome for everyone, but it should happen within the rules.