PHOENIX — Mike Pereira, the trailblazer in the trend of NFL rules experts on TV, thinks Aaron Rodgers has a point.
After Pereira, formerly head of NFL officiating, left the job to for a role at Fox Sports and succeeded immensely, active officials Gene Steratore, Terry McAulay and John Parry left for those roles at CBS, NBC and ESPN, respectively. Rodgers believed this mass exodus watered down the league’s officiating ranks.
“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 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 felt that other executives in Goodell’s inner circle were more highly valued.
“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.”
Rodgers lamented the loss of the league’s top officials during an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” in January.
“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.
“Terry McAulay, also a fantastic referee. He’s not working as the head of refs for the league office. He’s on TV. John Parry, another great referee. What is he doing? He’s working on TV. All of these guys who were fantastic whitecaps, and all who’ve left in probably the last five years. You’ve had eight or nine really good whitecap longtime referees. Are any of them working at the league office? No.”
Rodgers called for the NFL to compensate its best referees at a level commensurate with their value.
“If the league was smart, they would go grab one of those guys, pay them whatever they want, and make this a little easier for the refs,” he said. “They have a tough job to do, but there’s some things to be simplified.”
Dean Blandino, who like Pereira was once the NFL’s head of officiating and is now a rules expert at Fox Sports, is of the belief that the league’s treatment of the referees is on the upswing.
“I think the league has done a better job over the years of providing resources to officiating,” Blandino told The Post. “It’s the one area in the league office that actually impacts games on the field. You’ve gotta have good people in place. You’ve gotta make sure the officials are compensated, and that there’s a support system there. I think the league has done a better job in recent years of doing that.”
One positive against further attrition is that the networks’ slots are all now filled.
“TV is also a great opportunity,” he said. “To have the opportunity to come and work for Fox Sports, that’s enticing. And there’s only a limited number of spots, and the networks are always looking for good people, so I think it’s natural that some of them were going to leave. But I think the league has done a good job in terms of providing officiating with the resources to get better.”
As for what’s gotten better, Blandino said, “I think they’ve added more people into the [league’s central] officiating department. They’ve got former coaches who add input. The technology and the resources from gameday central [the league office in New York]. It’s not where it needs to be, but I think they’ve taken steps in recent years. They’ve done a better job of saying that this affects games and we need good people, processes and infrastructure.”