Assault on Pereira misses the point


Former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira has been a vocal critic of the league’s decision to lock out referees and use replacements.  And the league, which would prefer that no one (especially a former league-office insider) be saying anything critical about the replacement officials, doesn’t like it.  Not one bit.

Some say Pereira is trying to help his buddies, the locked-out officials.  That dynamic is balanced out, in our view, by the reality that Pereira was, you know, their boss.  Moreover, as the rules analyst for the NFL on FOX, Pereira works for one of the league’s “broadcast partners.”  By calling out the NFL regarding the use of replacement officials, Pereira runs the risk of the Playmakers-style placement of pressure on the powers-that-be by the folks at 345 Park Avenue.

There’s no evidence that any arms have been twisted.  (And I’d probably be wise to shut up about arm twisting before my own arm gets twisted.)  Instead, it appears that the NFL has opted to discredit Pereira by pointing out to Mike Freeman of an article written by Pereira during the last lockout of officials, when Pereira was the V.P. of officiating.

Before I go any farther, I need to be clear on two things.  First, Freeman is a friend, and I am trying my damnedest to tell it like it is without gratuitously criticizing Mike or his work.   Second, it’s my opinion that the NFL made Freeman aware of the article, especially since Freeman also got his hands on an 11-year-old internal NFL memo from Pereira to the replacement officials.  (My opinion may be wrong, but it’s still my opinion.)

Here’s the problem that the league has overlooked.  The last time the NFL locked out the officials, the replacements came largely from the NCAA’s Division I conferences.  This time, the Division I conferences told their officials that, if they accept work with the NFL, their spots will be filled.  Thus, they had to choose between a handful of games as NFL replacement officials or a full season (and beyond) of their existing college football assignments.

If we accept the notion that the best officials have been hired by the NFL and that the NCAA’s Division I  conferences get the second-best officials, the 2012 lockout features at best the third tier and lower of officiating quality, including high-school officials and men who called games for the Lingerie Football League.  That’s the gist of Pereira’s concern that the lockout undermines the integrity of the game.

That said, the following portion of the 11-year-old memo to the replacement officials cuts against the concerns Pereira has articulated in 2012:  “We are using you because of your ability and instincts as an official.  The game is the same no matter on what level it is played.  You officiate the game and we will guide you through the differences in the rules.”

The goal of that memo presumably (if not obviously) was to give the replacement officials confidence that they could do the job.  Surely, Pereira wasn’t going to say, “We know you stink and you know you stink but let’s act like you don’t stink until we can get the regular officials to cave.”

Freeman also regards as significant the fact that Pereira was a “backup replacement official” in 2001.  Taking that one step farther, Commissioner Roger Goodell told me 12 days ago on The Dan Patrick Show that Pereira actually worked games as a replacement official during the last lockout.

Either way, that point doesn’t have any relevance to Pereira’s current opposition to the use of third-tier-and-worse officials.  Pereira, as the photo we routinely use of him getting his ass chewed by Bill Parcells illustrates, was an official before he became the V.P. of officiating.  Thus, if the NFL is going to use replacement officials, anyone working in the league office who has been an official should be used.  (This time around, it’s unclear whether NFL V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson will be breaking his striped shirt out of mothballs.)

Perhaps most importantly, any actual or perceived inconsistencies can be explained by one very simple distinction:  In 2001, Pereira worked for the NFL.  In 2012, he doesn’t.

As Pereira told PFT in response to the Freeman article, “I worked for the league at that point.  What would you expect me to say?”

Ultimately, this is far different from the Jon Stewart parade of conflicting sound bites.  Eleven years ago, Pereira worked for the league as the supervisor of officials.  Today, he doesn’t work for the league, which allows him to be candid regarding his views.  He also has the benefit of the 2001 lockout experience in shaping his current views.

Given the differences in the circumstances surrounding the replacement officials and the differences in the employment status of Pereira, his current views are, in our view, not diminished by statements made back in 2001.  Besides, who other than Pereira is in position to educate the fans and the media on the issues arising from the use of replacement officials who exclusively will come from levels of the sport below the NCAA’s Division I?

As Patriots coach Bill Belichick said last week, “I don’t know who knows more about NFL officiating than Mike Pereira, so we’ll leave it to him.”

If it’s good enough for the guy whose name Michael Irvin wants to add to the Lombardi Trophy, it’s good enough for me.

34 responses to “Assault on Pereira misses the point

  1. I disagree. If a man says one thing and then years later says the exact opposite thing then he is in fact lying one of those times. Perhaps he lied for his old job, perhaps he lied for his new one but either way it discredits him greatly in this persons view.

  2. We get it already, you’re pro-union, pro-NFLRA.

    We don’t like the old refs and if the new refs screw up at times, well, they’re no worse than the ones that are holding out.

    Bad officiating is part of what the modern NFL is. Fans know this and are used to it. Just ask Seahawks fans…

  3. I’ve seen a few games so far this year 3-4 and I haven’t seen any more or less mistakes these guys are making than the “Real” refs. You can tell they’re nervous but they’ll get over that. The “Real” refs aren’t perfect by any means and are lucky to have a “job” in the NFL. I used to ref myself. I made mistakes and learned from them. The “Real” ones make plenty of mistakes that cost teams games so I don’t buy the arguement that it will take a mistake of that magnatude to give the “Real” refs any leverage. B.S. in my opinion.

  4. Simply put, while I think the NFL is right in its position of wanting to hire full-time refs and have more reserves so that they can fire underperformers, the league’s willingness to put in these replacements is downright foolish. These replacement refs, who I sympathize with in many ways, don’t even consistently BLOW THE WHISTLE TO END THE PLAY.

    This charade, along with the general notion of having a game involving players who are faster and heavier than at any time in the League’s history, managed by a bunch of apprentices, is how you get players hurt and fans to lose interest in the game.

    If this turns out badly, Goodell should be held accountable for the result.

  5. Pereira’s right. The league will resolve this situation once TV ratings and game attendance suffer because of the wretched replacement zebras.

  6. This issue is perhaps as important to the ‘health’ of the NFL as concussions, lawsuits about concussions, bounties, lawsuits about bounties, etc. The more pressure that can be brought to bear [like MJF’s excellent article] on the League to end this controversy, the better. It’s not even a close case, and the Commissioner should be ashamed. Thank goodness for former Insiders like Mike Pereira! It is my opinion that there will be a direct inverse correlation between the number of times the Lingerie Football League is mentioned…and the number of days it takes to make the replacement refs disappear.

  7. I think Pereira is right. But the squabble is all about money. So maybe he should think about being an impartial arbitrator to help the negotiations along. Or something. Fans would appreciate that way more than just stating the obvious about the replacement officials.

  8. NEWS FLASH: people love football!

    NEWS FLASH: football fans think refs stink!

    Football is here, friends! It’s going to be a great season and the officials have nothing to do with that. Lets move on with our lives and let 70 year old men dressed as zebras fix their own darn mess.

  9. My problem with Pereira is that he’s a complete hypocrite. Outside of the fact it was fine for him to get his as a replacement before, but not anyone now, he has gladly defended bad calls then his friends have made them. To now try to point out every single solitary slip up with crews who have never worked together or in a NFL game is shameful.
    But also, when the real refs make several bad calls in playoffs games, where is Pereira criticizing the referee pool then?

  10. What caught my eye about this report was that the NFL (and Goodell) continues to use leaks to marginal media to carry their message. The league needs to sack up and carry their own water instead of dropping crumbs to willing sycophants. Rozelle and Tagliabue never did business this way that I remember.

  11. Here’s what I know.. I have seen some god awful officiating thus far. Not that the regular referees are perfect (Lord knows I despised Gerry Austen before his retirement), but these replacements are pathetic.

    In the Jags/Giants game alone.. first play on Jags offense, Gabbert is clearly hit in the head by Tuck.. no flag. Jags DB William Middleton is holding the left arm of a Giants WR down in the endzone which is obvious pass interference.. no flag. OL Diehl tackles DE on a sweep right in front of the ref.. no flag. Aaron Ross comes off the edge on a blitz while Eli Manning ducks away from the pressure and gets a facemask call on third down despite the fact Ross’s arm got no higher than the letters on the back of Manning’s jersey and never even brushed his helmet.

    It continued as I watched the replays of other games over the weekend (the worst indiscretion being the downed punt debacle in the Buffalo game). These replacement refs are quite obviously out of their element and unsure of what they are doing. Keeping them on the field diminishes the integrity of the game. There is no right or wrong here. Only acceptable and unacceptable.

  12. I hope these clowns never get their jobs back. They screw up so many calls it has to be intentional.

  13. Common sense dude… When this Lockout ends, and the real refs are back, listen and see if you hear a whistle after each play. They don’t always blow the whistle. The action kills the play… Everyone’s complaints about the replacement refs happen to the real refs too. Refs misspoke and were given wrong numbers plenty of times. The touchback on the 4 was pretty bag though

  14. NFL officiating is HORRIBLE and has been for decades. The NFL is correct in demanding full time officials. But what the NFL really needs to do is initiate full time instant replay. The two greatest game changing calls made each week, and in every game, are holding and pass interference. And they are so liberally abused by entrenched officiating crews that have developed bad technique and poor judgment that they have incorporated these principles into their weekly officiating regimen. Perhaps what the NFL needs is fresh sets of eyes untainted by regimented indiscretion and a elevated usage of instant replay.

    The fact that the old guard officials make their calls more confidently and decisively does not make them better officials. It just means that they are more confident in making bad calls.

    NFL officiating is the worst of all the major sports, and it’s not even close. How could the game possibly be compromised with their dismissal?

  15. This is getting annoying Florio. Teams and players aren’t allowed to criticize the regular officials too, or have you forgotten that? What you should be focusing on is how slimy it is for the replacement officials to be publicly criticized by a group that will never stand for being criticized publicly themselves.

    It’s the preseason. The replacement refs need time get up to speed, just like the players.

    I’m shocked that a group of elitists like the refs, which Pieara is still an extended part of, think that no one else can possibly do their job as well as them. Sure, there will be some replacement refs that can’t handle the job, but that’s no different than the existing refs. Remember, the guys striking are the same people that brought us the tuck rule and the Calvin Johnson “process” rule.

  16. @ folkscrusader

    It is perfectly okay for reasonable and rational people to change their minds over the course of their life based on new information. People who dig in their heels and cling to their beliefs despite conflicting evidence/information display what’s called Cognitive Dissonance. And that is not a good trait.

    That said, it’s hilarious watching key NFL figures turn on eachother. Mike P was the NFL’s PR lapdog over at Fox Sports and he ALWAYS toed the company line. I even suspected he was still on the NFL payroll (I’m still not convinced that isn’t the case). This has obviously changed things. It’s great fun watching the NFL come apart at the seams these days under Goodell’s “leadership”.

  17. I don’t think Florio’s pro-union. I’m not pro-union, I’m pro-common sense.

    Anytime people, as a group, ask for more benefits and/or pay (players, refs, etc), people call them greedy. Owners ask for more money too (jerseys, tickets, tv deals, etc). Actually, the Owners don’t ask, they just charge more. The refs keep the playing field as level as humanly possible. Since so few can do it as well as them, I’m fine with them asking for more.

    As far as replacement officials, well… There have been tons of posts every time there’s an article about this issue. It still baffles me that people really think the replacements are as good as the real deal.

    People say sarcastically, “Like the real refs never make a mistake.” Yes they do. The difference is, a professional ref may get a call wrong due to lack of viewing angle, or clear evidence in a replay. A replacement ref takes 7 minutes to determine a punt that was caught on the field of play isn’t a touchback. We’re not talking “did he have both feet in bounds, does he have possession, etc.?” Those can be tough calls for anybody. We’re talking BASIC RULES. These new guys BARELY understand the BASIC RULES.

    Huge difference. Its not even close.

    I’m not saying to pay them like players, but damn, can we meet in the middle and get the best quality football possible?

  18. What the NFL is fighting for is what every fan should want. Full time refs who are finally going to be held accountable with their job on the line if they can’t preform.
    This goal is worth the present officials not being the best. If the NFL wins this, within a year the best of the NFLRA officials, top college officials, and maybe even a few of the people they have out there now will be on the job and the product will be the best it has ever been.

  19. It’s not the calls that will hurt the scabs. It’s the flow of the game. If the scabs cause the game to extend beyond the networks sold commercial time the pressure will be on the NFL to settle. If the scabs can handle the timing of the game then the NFLRA will have to cave.

  20. vbe2 says:

    We get it already, you’re pro-union, pro-NFLRA.

    We don’t like the old refs and if the new refs screw up at times, well, they’re no worse than the ones that are holding out.

    Bad officiating is part of what the modern NFL is. Fans know this and are used to it. Just ask Seahawks fans…


    Well put vbe2. I think most people have noticed Mike’s one sided articles on certain matters.

    I have to be honest. I have seen some bad calls by the replacement officials, but not many. And other than the punt for a touchback, nothing too flagrant. Despite the T.V. anouncers calling out every questionable call and people writing articles like this one, the replacement refs are receiving a lot of support. Mostly because fans are so fed up with the bad calls from the previous officials who are suppose to be proffesionals. If they replacements get better and can keep from blowing big calls like the ‘professionals’ do, I say keep them and the old refs and NFLRA can go to ‘shell’.

  21. How many of you are the same person you were 10 years ago? How many of you have the exact same opinions as you did back then? So why does it matter if somebody expresses different opinions after growing or dying for a decade?

  22. maybe you don’t get belichick, but he wasn’t taking a shot at officials. he was taking a sarcastic shot at Pereira.

  23. folkscrusader wrote-

    “in this persons view”


    Umm. when you’re low IQ then you have no view!


  24. Let me preface by stating I am a Pereira fan – like his commentary, admire and respect him all around. He IS a good guy – and very knowledgeable.

    But this speak volumes, and is precisely what I suspected all along: “As Pereira told PFT in response to the Freeman article, ‘I worked for the league at that point. What would you expect me to say’?”

    Pereira Translation: the definitive conclusions and analysis I (Pereira) regularly offer up as legit – are not what I really think. I want to keep my employer happy. What would you expect me to say?

    Well, if you’re trying to sell something as the TRUTH – I would expect you to be straight with us, instead of regularly defending a number of untenable calls.

    Pereira equals good guy. Smart guy. Highly likable and charming guy.

    Just wish he’d been straight with us all those times he was selling to us his definitive “interpretations.” Sounds a lot like Pereira will say whatever he has to say out of personal self-interest, whether it’s his actual opinion or not.

    I find that disappointing, but not particularly surprising. Cynicism factor in play.

  25. This is kinda off topic a little bit, but hey Florio im just curious how you could possibly be friends with Mike Freeman? How do you communicate with him when his head is stuck up Goodell’s ***?

  26. Being a purely political view here and taking the NFL factor out of it, with the vicious behavior we’ve all seen from unions in the last few years I tend to side with the league on this. However, its ONLY from the perspective of non-union = good, union = bad. I, myself, havent seen the replacement officials completely blow it yet and quite frankly, the less calls they make in a game the better as far as I am concerned. The game has become so completely pass-happy that an entire game can get turned upside down by a QB who decides to heave the ball down the field and see if he can get a Pass Interference call. I like the “stay out of the way and let them play the game” attitude the replacements have.

  27. The funny thing in all this is that while the regular refs are bad, the new ones are awful.

    When I watched games last season I often winced when a flag was thrown, knowing there was a decent chance the officials were going to screw it up. Now when I see a flag, I know there is a 50-50 chance a screw-up is coming. That is not a good thing.

    One thing I will not do is blame the replacement refs. They are not in the same league as the normal folks. They do not have the training or the experience. They are however saving me from a boring, non-football late summer and I am happy for that. Chasing a dream is not a bad thing (for them anyways).

    I hope everyone comes to terms soon. I hope even more that the NFL and the refs will agree to put the refs on full time employment. Constant year round training might fix all the problems 🙂

  28. Heres my take:

    1. The real refs do the best they can in real time and in the heat of the moment. Sitting on your couch watching a slo-mo replay and yelling at the TV is much easier. When the refs get to review calls via instant replay, they generally do a good job.

    2. The average football fan knows next to nothing about football or officiating, and will certainly harbor several biases, for the team they like, and against teams they don’t. The point is 90% of us either have no idea what we are talking or our predetermined opinion isnt relevant.

    3. I wouldn’t listen to a single word Pereira says, especially something he said while working for the NFL. Half the time Fox puts him on to rule on a challenge, he recites the rulebook perfectly, but gets the call wrong. He seems to me to be the guy destined for managment, but who can’t actually perform the job himself.

    4. All it will take to end this is for a call on the field cost one of the NFL’s darling teams (Steelers, Patriots, Packers etc) a game or two. Boom, settlement.

    5. At when the replacement refs mess a call up, there will be an excuse

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