Mike Pereira On WFAN: Officiating NFL Rule Changes Will Be A Challenge

Mike's On
July 18, 2018 - 1:20 pm
Mike Pereira

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By WFAN.com

Expect some turbulence in NFL officiating this upcoming season, says Mike Pereira, the NFL supervisor of officials-turned-Fox Sports rules analyst.

Pereira joined WFAN's Mike Francesa on Tuesday to discuss the variety of rule changes in the league, as well as how the influx of new officials might impact it.

With the league losing so many officials to TV, how will their replacements, who are often inexperienced, handle the many alterations to the rules?

"You've got first-year referees with other rookie officials, which is very interesting," Pereira said. "I think the rule changes would've been tough for an all-veteran group. I felt safe with this new helmet rule until I heard more of the explanation. ... To think that that could be officiated consistently ... is unrealistic.

"While I didn't want to be an alarmist at the beginning because I didn't think it would be anything greatly noticeable in terms of flags, I am now because of the fact that it's push, push, push so much so on player safety. So I think we're going to have a struggle in the first six weeks."

Francesa asked about the kickoff rule, which eliminates running starts by the coverage units, bans wedge blocks, and requires eight of the 11 members of the receiving team to line up within 15 yards of the spot of the kickoff and bars hitting within those 15 yards.

"I don't think that much of it," Pereira responded. "The formation thing that receivers can't leave the box until the ball is touched or touches the ground, that's probably the hardest one, where they can't actually cross their 45-yard line until the ball touches something. That's going to be the only hard part to officiate."

Francesa also brought up the new definition of a catch, which establishes three elements: control, two feet inbounds and a "football move," defined as an act such as taking a third step or reaching for the goal line.

"Well, I'm a little bit shaky about that because the one element which we are going to hear more often that not ... is that the pass is complete because of the third step," Pereira said. "With that, I believe that's where they will mostly focus on what is a catch or what is not a catch."

Pereira commented that he thought this was a positive change.

"Now the thing I like about it is it's applicable to both the receiver that's on his feet and upright and the receiver going to the ground," he said. "If you look at the Dez Bryant play (in the 2014 playoffs), forget about the ball coming out when it hit the ground, he's actually completed the process before he may be reached, before the ball hits the ground, because he actually did get a third step down." 

Pereira said he does think that the new rule will lead to more fumbles after catches.  

MORE: NFL Owners Approve Changes To Catch Rule

Pereira also predicted there will be another wave of inexperienced officials entering the league in the near future, so we might see another adjustment period soon. 

On the current officials, he said: "They're all approaching 65 and above, so you're going to have another influx of new referees probably within two years. So that's going to give you a real young staff in terms of referees.

"That is the most important position on the field. You love Gene Steratore because he projects confidence, so people feel good about him, and that's critical. If you don't sense confidence in the referee, then you won't be confident in the entire crew, so that's why that position to me is so important."

Francesa asked if the transition into NFL officiating is tougher now than it was 10 years ago. 

"Sure. Because I think the game's harder to officiate," Pereira said. "There's so much technology now, and there's so much exposure to officiating and so much more judgment that has really crept into the game. There's a reason why ... no matter what position he works, (an official) cannot work a Super Bowl until he's had five full years in."

Another potential concern is the increased legalization of sports betting, as gamblers might think referees can be swayed to make certain calls in exchange for monetary compensation. 

But Pereira said he doesn't see that being much of an issue. 

"People are wagering now," he said. "They're wagering illegally. We know it's out there.

"May they get more criticism if they miss a call? Maybe. But they're immune to criticism because they hear it all the time."

MORE: Silverman: Huge Shift For Gambling Landscape After Supreme Court Ruling

One idea being floated is eliminating the kickoff, which would result in the loss of the onside kick, an aspect of the game that has made for some of the sport's most exciting moments. 

"I'd hate to change the fabric of the game," Pereira said. "It changes it tremendously. And I've heard that there's been some talk where you could declare that you were going to onside kick, but that takes away the element of surprise."

However, Pereira thinks that the changes made for the kickoff this year will be sufficient in improving player safety, and therefore it won't need to be adjusted further. 

"I think it stays in the game," he said of the kickoff. "And I just hope and pray that at the end of the day, when they look at the injury stats or when it comes to concussions, they are down."

There was also a possibility that the NFL might allow pass interferences to be subject to review, which Francesa said would be an utter disaster and impossible to legislate. 

"We have to be so careful with replay," Pereira agreed. "You've got automatic reviews of changes of possession, of scoring plays. So you have less than 1 1/4 coaches' challenges. You let a coach challenge anything, and that one and a quarter is going to go to five because if they get the first two right, they get a third. So it'll drag out the game longer, we'll have more stops, more three minute delays."

"If we let replay go to where we have seven stops in a game or eight stops in a game with the automatics, then I think from that standpoint, the game's ruined."