NFL officiating has been under increased criticism in the NFL playoffs, especially on Championship Sunday. According to a premier quarterback and lead officiating analyst, the league itself is partly to blame.
During an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” last month, Aaron Rodgers noted that the NFL’s top officials had left their positions on the field for spots in the broadcast booth. Terry McAulay (NBC/Prime Video), Gene Steratore (CBS) and John Parry (ESPN) are among the key referees to join networks, and Rodgers believes those moves to broadcasting came about because of money and have hurt the NFL’s officiating group.
“Listen, the best refs we’ve had in the league are on TV now,” Rodgers said. “They’re not working in the league office. They’re on TV. Gene Steratore, my favorite ref of all time. I think one of the best guys at understanding how to interact with guys and how to communicate with them, and then how to control a game without being a part of it. Gene was incredible at that, but Gene is on TV now. Why? Because they pay more.”
Mike Pereria, who will be a part of FOX’s Super Bowl LVII broadcast, believes Rodgers has a convincing case, even if it doesn’t directly correlate to his own career change.
“I liked his logic, but it didn’t apply to me because I was already off the field and in the league office,” Pereira told The New York Post at Fox Sports’ Super Bowl 2023 media day on Tuesday. “He has a point. I do feel that officiating is under-appreciated from the standpoint of the league. I think the job I had [as head of officiating] is the second-most important job in the league. I give Roger Goodell the No. 1 job, but I think what happens in officiating and the integrity of the game, I think that position is so important that if you get the right one you should do everything to not let them get away.”
Pereira joined FOX Sports in 2010 after serving as an official, supervisor of officiating, director of officiating and later vice president of officiating during his NFL tenure. In his eyes, VP of officiating should have been viewed as a more intriguing role for some of his, McAulay or Steratore’s stature.
“I don’t think it’s ever been looked at as a position, like the EVPs, in that top tier of executives, and I do think that’s where it belongs,” he said. “It’s not ever been that way, and it isn’t that way in the NBA and MLB and I think it should be.”
The NFL and its officials had a labor dispute over a decade ago during the 2012 referee lockout. Replacement officials stepped in, culminating in the infamous “Fail Mary” – which cost Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Seattle – before the two sides came to an agreement.
Officiating will be in the spotlight again on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles face the Kansas City Chiefs. Instead of making calls on the field, Pereira will instead be commentating on head referee Carl Cheffer’s performance.