Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira has been fairly outspoken with his criticism of refereeing since leaving the league in 2010. Now, he has a new specific criticism—that referees are breaking NFL rules by communicating directly with replay officials during games.
In a conversation with ESPN’s Kevin Seifert yesterday about his book (which was excerpted on Deadspin in September here), Pereira said that referees “regularly receive assistance and advice from replay officials on their wireless headsets,” as paraphrased by Seifert.
This is ostensibly not a bad practice in and of itself, as it would help referees make better calls, but it’s directly against NFL rules.
Pereira said his allegations come from both discussions with current officials and his own observations. One specific example he gives is from last Monday’s Patriots-Ravens game, when a referee first spotted the ball at the 23-yard line before immediately switching to the 27-yard line—a spot later confirmed by replay—without the play being challenged or put under review. According to Pereira, that change came from the referee talking to the replay booth.
“It was the replay official who did it. They have gotten so involved in the game since they started using this communication system [in 2014]. The official on the field made an error, and boom, they make that change. What do you think happened? I talk to replay officials. They’re involved in almost everything now. If that’s the tack you’re going to take, as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine. But everyone has to be aware of it. There has been all of this talk of adding an eighth official, but really, they already have one. He’s in the booth.”
Referees are currently allowed to “consult” with the replay official in specific situations (checking the game clock, confirming penalty yardage), but no communication is allowed for “on-field judgment calls.”
Pereira first discussed a specific case where he believed the replay official was helping a referee in 2015, but this is the first time he has discussed it as a widespread practice.