Mike Pereira was among the high-profile Chicken Littles trying to warn the NFL of the pitfalls of over-officiating games via more rule changes, points of emphasis and expanded replay review.
“It’s an imperfect game,” the former NFL vice president of officiating and current Fox Sports rules analyst told the Star Tribune the week before the 2019 season began. “Football is a game of imperfections.
“Whether you’re a quarterback and you have interceptions and incompletions or a runner who is fumbling or a defender who is missing a tackle. You’re never going to have a perfectly officiated game no matter what you try to do with replay. The big-picture needs to be brought into focus. The viewability of the game, enjoyability. Do we want all these stops, all these penalties in a search for perfection? It’s not going to happen, and I think you just hurt the game if you try to make it happen.”
Unlike the storybook chicken who was just being paranoid, Pereira seems prophetic because the sky does appear to be falling on the NFL and its beleaguered officiating.
It’s hard to imagine the officiating getting more frustrating than it was in Week 2, lending more credence to longtime football followers who suggest the NFL is in danger of becoming unwatchable through its tsunami of yellow flags thrown and added upon further review.
The stoppages in play, while annoying and harmful to a sport best played and enjoyed when it’s fast and rhythmic, are only part of the problem. Another considerable issue is the opposite effect this dogged drive for perfection is having on officials.
They may dress like zebras, but they’re performing more and more like deer stuck in the headlights beaming from the press box to boss Al Riveron’s command center in New York City.
In Denver, a blown roughing call on Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb moved the Bears into position for a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. Helping the Bears, timewise, was a questionable stoppage with one second left when it was deemed that receiver Allen Robinson gave himself up and was touched down by Chris Harris Jr.
In Los Angeles, poor Saints fans were sucker-punched for the third straight game going back to the NFC title game and the egregious pass interference no-call that pushed NFL owners to rush the new rule making pass interference calls and no-calls reviewable.
In Week 1, the Saints were shortchanged 15 seconds when officials messed up resetting the game clock after a replay review. Only through the wizardry of Drew Brees did the Saints pull out a victory.
Then came Sunday and the rematch with the Rams. With the score tied 3-3, Rams quarterback Jared Goff fumbled. Saints defensive end Cam Jordan scooped and scored.
The officials ruled it an incomplete pass.
Upon further review, it was indeed a fumble.
The official blew the whistle. Saints ball, but no touchdown and no moment-changing moment in another loss.
After the game, Jordan compared the refs to Foot Locker employees, who dress in referee uniforms. Then he tweeted an apology. Not to the refs, but to Foot Locker employees.
Meanwhile, multiple offensive pass interference (OPI) calls and no-call reversals were making people scratch their heads from Oakland to Green Bay and beyond.
In Oakland, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was beyond flabbergasted when OPI was called on receiver Ryan Grant on a play that resulted in Carr’s second interception.
“The second interception will blow my mind forever,” Carr said. “They said [Grant] was blocking. So I asked the man, I said, ‘Sir, why would I throw him the ball if he was blocking?’ And he didn’t have an answer and just walked away.”
In Green Bay, the Vikings were flagged three times for OPI. Stefon Diggs had a 3-yard touchdown negated when replay official Terri Valenti initiated the review that led Riveron to ruling from New York that Dalvin Cook committed OPI that wasn’t called on the field. And football fans were enlightened to the fact that reviewable no-calls extend to players away from the ball.
Riveron called it “clear and obvious visual evidence” that Cook was guilty. A day later, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer called it a “bad call.”
Later Monday, Tony Dungy, perhaps the most levelheaded person associated with the NFL, tweeted: “These Pass Interference reviews by NFL officiating are not making any sense. Clear DPIs last week not overturned. Clear push off by Antonio Brown does not get overturned but Minnesota TD pass gets called back due to blocking downfield. Not sure what the standard is right now.”
So, it turns out one man’s “clear and obvious” can be another man’s “muddy and debatable” in an over-officiated league searching for unattainable perfection while damaging its bazillion-dollar viewability?
Mike Pereira, for one.