(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Mike Pereira interview fast-forward to 21:26 )
It’s been 11 years since Mike Pereira was the NFL’s vice president of officiating, leaving to become FOX’s NFL rules analyst. That means it’s been 11 years that he’s gone to what he jokingly calls “the dark side” as a member of the NFL media.
Each weekend he interprets the NFL’s byzantine rule book for millions of TV viewers, deciphering it so clearly that networks hired other former officials to do the same for them. It’s a job ideally suited for the personable Pereira, and he makes a tough job look easy.
But it can’t be. And it’s not.
“I think maybe the hardest part,” he said on last week’s “Eye Test for Two” podcast, “is trying not to offend the officials. Part of my job is to disagree, and I don’t mind disagreeing. But I know that pretty much every time I do I’m going to offend somebody because officials have egos maybe bigger than the state of Connecticut. So they very seldom ever think they’re wrong. And when you do criticize them they take offense.
“Now, they maybe take less offense to me because I’ve done it (a game official), and they know that I’ve done it. And they know I realize how hard it is. And maybe they’ll take less offense to me than (Hall-of-Fame quarterback and FOXanalyst) Troy Aikman, who hasn’t done it before and doesn’t actually realize how hard it is. But I just try to be respectful when I do disagree.
“I remember when I took the job and officials talked to me. I said, ‘Look it, I’m never going to use harsh words. I’m never going to say that, ‘Oh, he blew that call.’ I was never going to say, ‘Oh, that was a horrible call.’ Those words that just pile on. Sometimes, though, I look at a call and say to myself, ‘Man, that’s a horrible call.’ So how do I try to temper it down a bit so I don’t offend them? That’s difficult.”
However, as Pereira conceded, it’s not the most difficult part of the job. Once the head of the league’s officiating department, he has dozens of friends who officiate NFL games today. But those friendships, he said, can be … and have been … compromised by his move to TV, with the NFL prohibiting contact between its game officials and media.
“I don’t know if they were all my friends, but certainly my best friends are officiating friends,” Pereira said, “and I went to ‘the dark side.’ I know that they consider it ‘the dark side’ because I was one of those, and I didn’t like to get criticized – especially I didn’t like to get criticized when I was right. And that happens a lot in the coverage on television and radio.
“So I went to ‘the dark side,’ and I became the enemy … to the point where their own collective bargaining agreement – the officials – did not allow them to talk to me because I was a member of the media.
“I remember my first year, I went to a game and I was traveling … I‘m not sure, but it may have been (to) Tampa … and I saw a couple of the officials and they said, ‘Come on over for a cup of coffee tomorrow morning and see the guys.’ I said, “Great. Love to.’ And then I got a call from the (league) office that said, ‘You’re not welcome. You can’t go.’ That, to me, was difficult. Because a lot of my friendships went by the wayside.”