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Mike Pereira is essentially holding his breath that the NFL divisional playoffs this weekend won’t be marred by controversy involving the officials.
After the opening round of the playoffs last weekend included questionable calls in three games, and with the league nearing the end of its first season using a “replay assist” measure as an additional officiating tool, there are no guarantees.
Pereira, who served as the NFL’s Director of Officiating for a decade before joining FOX Sports in 2010 for his current roles as a rules analyst, pulls no punches in expressing his concerns.
“I can’t say I’m confident,” Pereira told USA TODAY Sports. “I can say I’m hopeful. But I could say the same thing in my day. I was hopeful. You know mistakes will be made. You hope you don’t turn the mistakes into a mess.”
Sign up for our NFL newsletter!: Get everything you need to know about the NFL playoffs right in your inboxPereira isn’t blasting the officials. He contends that the NFL has “maybe the best 125 officials ever” when assessing their level of skill. Instead, he’s concerned about the impact of the latest twist to how instant replay is implemented from the NFL’s command center at league headquarters. That's where some corrections are made throughout the games without challenges by coaches. Those decisions are made under the direction of former referee Walt Anderson and former coach Perry Fewell.
“I think they have great officials,” Pereira said, “but I don’t think the officiating is as good as the officials.”
By that, Pereira, who also worked for years as an on-field game official before rising the ranks as a supervisor, is casting doubt on the effects that replay has had on the confidence of officials to make particular calls. This is hardly a new concern caused by the “replay assist” measure. Pereira believes this goes back to 1999, when the league’s current challenge system was implemented.
“I understand the idea of getting it right, but too often guys are not making the call,” Pereira said, inferring that they are less assured while relying on replays to sort out details. “There are too many people in their ear.”
Pereira’s concerns have surely been expressed to league decision-makers.
“I’m disenchanted,” he said.
Last weekend’s wild-card round only heightened concerns. Pereira bemoans officials allowing the Bengals touchdown to stand after quarterback Joe Burrow was originally (and erroneously) ruled out-of-bounds as he rolled out of the pocket and the whistle blew….which typically ends the play.
“If you make a mistake, you’ve got to own up to it,” Pereira said.
In Monday night’s Rams victory over the Cardinals, Pereira said it was “horrendous” that officials took an excessive amount of time to rule on a catch and ensuing fumble that went out of bounds. Rams coach Sean McVay then challenged the ruling and the call was reversed. Pereira said the entire process took roughly eight minutes.
“Where are we here?” Pereira said. “We’re going beyond the norm…I don’t like it.”
Pereira pushed back on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s “immature” postgame comments, which endorsed the actions of some frustrated fans at AT&T Stadium throwing debris at officials after Dallas couldn’t get off a snap as time expired in its loss against the 49ers.
Interestingly, Pereira didn’t slam Prescott for the source of his angst with the officials as time was lost as the umpire spotted the ball rather than simply tapping the ball, which might have saved the fractions of needed for a spike and last-gasp play. Many contend that rather than spotting the ball and waiting for the official to tap it, Prescott should have handed the ball to the official.
“You can do it either way,” Pereira said.
Of course, either way, the timing was cut close. Pereira said it wasn’t essential for the umpire to re-spot the ball for what would be a snap and spike.
“I don’t blame it on the officials,” Pereira said. “I blame it on me.”
Say what? During his tenure as officiating chief, Pereira re-positioned the umpire to be stationed behind the offensive backfield. In the past, the umpire would have been 20 yards closer.
In other words, Pereira still isn’t above second-guessing himself, too, is assessing the officiating mess.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Pereira questions effectiveness of NFL's new 'replay assist'