Fox’s Pereira knows the pressure Super Bowl officials face – KGET 17

Mike Pereira knows the pressure Carl Cheffers and his crew will be under during Super Bowl 57 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.

That’s because he hired or promoted most of them.

As the NFL’s vice president of officiating in 2008, Pereira promoted Cheffers from lineman to referee. After 14 years in the league, Pereira retired and joined Fox in 2010 as a rules analyst.

Pereira’s move to television paved the way for officials to continue to provide their expertise after leaving the field. It also increased oversight of officials with an analysis of every decision to replay or close a call.

Pereira, who will be in the booth for his fifth Super Bowl with Fox, knows that making the call in the biggest game of the season is the last thing an official wants to be known for.

“I always felt you were remembered for your Super Bowl performance,” Pereira said. “There’s no doubt that every one of those guys on the field is feeling the pressure. I think every official likes a challenge.”

Fox went into uncharted waters by hiring Pereira, so much so that neither side knew his role during the week. The original plan was for Pereira to write a column and create a video rulebook online so fans could learn the rules. It was a last-minute decision by then-Fox Sports president David Hill before the 2010 opener to have Pereira in the studio in Los Angeles in case there was a play that needed rules interpretation.

Thanks to Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, Pereira made an immediate impression.

During the fourth quarter of the Detroit Lions’ game against the Chicago Bears, Johnson appeared to catch what would have been the game-winning touchdown. Johnson went down with the ball when his back and knee hit the ground in what most considered a touchdown.

However, according to the NFL’s process for meeting the catch rules at the time, Johnson lost control of the ball after his hand hit the ground, rendering it incomplete.

“It looked like the game-winning touchdown pass to everyone except the people in New York and me. I went on the air and described why I thought they were going to leave it as an incomplete pass,” Pereira said. “I think one play defined how this position would work, whether it was Fox or any other network.

“I don’t think anyone thought at the time that it would spread to all the other networks, but it went from the Internet to an on-air presence.”

Pereira’s role expanded to most weeks in the booth with Fox’s top broadcast team of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen.

Dean Blandino, who worked under Pereira in the league office and eventually became vice president of officiating, said there was some trepidation when Pereira moved to Fox because of the unknown.

“I think it ended up being a positive and it allowed someone with that expertise to explain things rather than fans sitting at home wondering what just happened,” said Blandino, who joined Fox in 2017. “Maybe they don’t agree with call or rule, but at least they understand the basic concept.”

John Parry, who has been with ESPN since 2019, said the opinion of officials at the time Pereira started at Fox was good because it gave viewers a window into the decision-making process.

The opinions of rules analysts have also become polarizing at times, depending on the performance of the officials. During the conference championship games, the hashtag #NFLRigged was trending on social media due to what many felt were bad calls.

In the case of Pereira, Parry, CBS’s Gene Steratore and NBC’s Terry McAulay, sometimes the less on the air the better because it means there’s no trial controversy.

Both Pereira and Parry said the attention on Cheffers and his team has increased because of what happened with the calls in both conference championship games.

Parry compared it to when he was the referee for Super Bowl 53. The main topic leading into that game was the upset between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game.

“That’s all everyone was talking about — how bad the officiating was, the wrong team went, and how can they not fix it? So you walk into Atlanta, and you know, every eye is on us. So the pressure for that was huge,” said Parry, who will be part of ESPN’s Super Bowl coverage for Australia.

Pereira said Cheffers calling his second Super Bowl in three years is a positive, even if others point to what his crew did during the regular season and playoffs.

Super Bowl assignments, however, are assigned to the top officials at each position.

“You already hear things about people saying, ‘Well, Carl’s crew took the most penalties this year,’ they did, but it’s not the crew’s job, so that’s not the way to judge,” Pereira said. “I have a supreme comfort level when it’s about how Carl will behave.

“As hard as it is in the (conference) championship games, if you have a good solid performance and nobody says anything about you on social media or in the paper afterwards. It calms a lot of nerves.”


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