Pereira’s 2018 requests: Use common sense with catch rule and fix replay reversals

Mike Pereira and his pets discuss Super Bowl and MVP predictions

Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating, closes his season of writing for The Sacramento Bee with Super Bowl and MVP predictions.
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Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating, closes his season of writing for The Sacramento Bee with Super Bowl and MVP predictions.

Christmas has come and gone, and 2018 is right around the corner.


I gave up on resolutions long ago, instead opting for New Year’s requests. My requests for 2018, at least in regard to football, are as follows.

Please adjust the catch rule. Start with the premise that you will align the rule with common sense.

The fix seems simple to me. Treat the receiver who is going to the ground the same as the receiver who is upright and on his feet. It is control, two feet or another body part other than the hand or foot, and time – in this case having the ball long enough after control and two feet to be able to do something with it like turn upfield, lunge, reach, etc.

Also, make that element of time not reviewable in replay. It’s too subjective. Review, control and two feet, but not time.

Make this change and Pittsburgh’s Jesse James would have scored a touchdown, which is what common sense would seem to make it. He has control, a knee down, and then had time to turn toward the goal line and reach for a touchdown. That is a common-sense approach. Let’s have all of us who had any part in tinkering with this rule since 1999 admit that we got off track.

Make this change and Calvin Johnson scores a touchdown in 2010, Dez Bryant catches that pass in 2015 and the Steelers likely end up with home-field advantage in this year’s playoffs.

Please NFL, call a meeting to discuss the standard needed to reverse a call in replay. It would appear that there isn’t a standard, or it is not being applied consistently.

Who should be in this meeting? A group of five which includes Alberto Riveron, senior vice president of officiating; Russell Yurk, VP of instant replay administration; executive VP of football operations; the big cheese himself, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; and, most importantly, the guy who was supposed to be making these decisions in the first place, former senior VP of officiating and current rules analyst Dean Blandino.

Let Blandino, the man who coined the phrase “clear and obvious,” talk to Yurk and Riveron about falling into the trap of becoming too technical and losing sight of the most important part of the decision, which is what was called on the field. Blandino admits that he occasionally got caught in this trap, but not to the degree that it is happening now.

Those making the decisions have become too technical. Replay has become too technical. Have this meeting now. It has to happen before the playoffs start next week. It’s that important.

Q: Please explain the difference between game balls and kicking balls. Are they picked by the kickers? Is the pressure in the balls different? Why are they used and when did the two-ball concept come into the league?

Gary Szakacs, Roseville

A: Thanks for the question, Gary. It takes me back in time to when we had to deal with an ever-increasing success rate of field goals and, at the time, too many touchbacks on kickoffs. This was back, I think, in 1999.

The competition committee wanted to investigate this trend, so we looked into the minds and actions of kickers. We found that they were doing some pretty weird things with what became known as the K-balls.

My favorite was the kicker who was soaking balls in water and then putting them in a regular dryer with two strips of AstroTurf. We also heard of kickers putting balls in saunas and microwave ovens. Are you kidding me? Of course this was beyond the norm of smashing the points of the balls into the ground to reduce resistance.

The competition committee mandated that 12 balls be sent directly to teams in a sealed box, and then the team was to deliver the balls to the officials with the seal unbroken. You don’t think those kickers figured out how to unseal and reseal the box? Yeah, right.

So the 12 kicking balls were sent from the factory directly to the official’s hotel. The kickers howled. “The balls are too slippery. They are too hard.” Then, along came Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and his muffed snap as the holder in a wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks in 2007. That led to the kicking balls being prepared more like the regular footballs were being prepared. Less is made of this issue now as kickers and snappers are allowed to test the balls in pregame warmups.

By the way, in 1999, it started out with 12 kicking balls. It’s now down to six, with nets behind the uprights allowing fewer balls to go into the stands.

Signing off – Thanks for reading everyone! The regular season comes to an end, and so does my writing.

It’s like a good catch. I got control, two feet down, and I’ve had the pen long enough to become a writer. So, it’s time to move on, unless, of course, replay has clear and obvious evidence suggesting otherwise.

Happy New Year everyone!

Mike Pereira is a rules analyst for Fox Sports who lives in Sacramento.