During the search to replace Mike Pereira as vice-president of officiating, we commented that Pereira’s replacement must have the talent to be the most visible member of NFL management. By virtue of the weekly “Official Review” segment on the NFL Network’s NFL Total Access, the referee boss would be seen more often by the public than even the NFL commissioner.
Last September, we laid out the qualifications for the next head referee, based on participation in “Official Review”:
This involves presentation skills far more polished than a 10-second announcement over the public-address system. A successful candidate must also navigate and rise above the flood of faux hipness that the network talking heads constantly exude.
Carl Johnson was hired in the offseason to take Pereira’s job in the league office, while Pereira went to Fox Sports as sort of a rules interpretation jukebox. Since the first week of the season, Johnson has been unseen by the public, the “retired” Pereira has remained the de facto expert voice on controversial calls.
The NFL Network has opted to replace Official Review with a new segment simply titled Competition Committee. The segment can be just as simply summarized: one of three members of the NFL Competition Committee has six minutes to (1) discuss the most controversial rule of the week, (2) discuss why the rule is written the way it is, and (3) field lobbying efforts for changing said rule in the offseason. To fill the time, the member of the Competition Committee will often repeat several of the bullet points from earlier in the discussion until the viewer changes the channel.
The first week of Competition Committee featured a discussion of the process of the catch, after the Lions had an apparent touchdown taken off the scoreboard. Colts president Bill Pollian handled the duties (video). Week 2 was hosted by Titans coach and Competition Committee co-chairman Jeff Fisher holding an NFL Network stick mic way too close to his face in a room apparently no larger than a confessional (video). Fisher discussed the perceived inconsistency with roughing-the-passer penalties, but I could not watch the entire thing.
It’s not known why the NFL decided to shift the focus from the judges to the lawmakers, however, Fox Sports is willing to pick up the slack, with Pereira providing the instant Official Review, at least for the games broadcast by Fox.