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Mike Pereira thinks Aaron Rodgers “has a point” on best referees leaving for TV

Peter King, Mike Florio and Chris Simms evaluate the pros and cons of full-time officials to weigh if that change would be both sustainable and provide better consistency.

When it comes to the officiating function, the NFL is CHEAP.

Yeah, I said it. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. After I say it right now.

CHEAP. With a capital CHEAP. They don’t pay, won’t pay, because they think they don’t need to pay. And they definitely don’t see the connection between paying more and getting better results.

Or they see it and they don’t care.

Remember the lockout of 2012? Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly boasted at the time that replacement officials would do just as well as the regular officials. Until they didn’t. As explained in Playmakers, some in the league office were amazed that the replacement-ref model didn’t implode well before the Fail Mary moment to cap Week Three of the regular season.

More recently, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lamented the fact that the best referees leave for TV, where the money is way better. Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira spoke about the comments from Rodgers during Fox’s Super Bowl media availability.

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 Ryan Glasspiegel of the New York Post. “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. . . .

“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. It’s not ever been that way, and it isn’t that way in the NBA and MLB and I think it should be.”

Pereira is absolutely right. During the season, the head of officiating is (or at least should be) the most visible and vocal person in the league. In recent years, that role has been vacated, with executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent becoming the one who talks when circumstances require something to be said. (That said, Walt Anderson will do periodic pool reports, when a replay decision of significance occurs during a game.)

But the league continues to not value the position. Dean Blandino, who like Pereira once ran the officiating function for the NFL and now works with Pereira at Fox, told me more than five years ago that the NFL does not value the job.

“I think that there was a sense of, around the league office and some of the people in leadership positions, they didn’t value that position the way it should have been valued, and how important it is,” Blandino said in 2017. “During the season, other than the Commissioner, the head of officiating is probably the most public-facing person in the office. And those decisions that are made, I mean, these affect the outcome of games, and that’s your product on the field. . . . So I do feel that the position was not valued to where it should have been. And, look, you always like to feel that you provided value, and I would never want someone to fail to make myself look better, but I do believe that they never valued that position where it should have been, and maybe it’s a wake-up call for some people around the league.”

At the time, Al Riveron ran the operation. And it ultimately didn’t run well enough -- especially during the pass interference replay-review debacle of 2019.

At some point, the NFL will have no choice but to devote more resources to the officiating function. The ongoing spread of legalized gambling will leave the NFL with no other option. Otherwise, the league will end up dealing with Congress, a possibly regulatory agency, and maybe even a grand-jury probe into whether incompetence has crossed the line into corruption.

So, NFL, stop being pennywise and pound foolish. Improve the officiating function. Spend the money necessary to do it. It’s a critical aspect of ensuring the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football.