Fox Sports pulled off a major coup in 2010 by hiring Mike Pereira, the former vice president of officiating, as a rules analyst. But, NBC has trumped Fox by adding the current head of officials to their coverage.
Sunday Night Football producer Fred Gaudelli told Football Zebras, “any time we have a ruling on the field that is unusual or needs further explanation we will have NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino joining the broadcast by phone to clarify things.” Blandino was on the telecast with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth during a preseason game, and he will be available throughout the season.
“You can’t get any more of an expert or definitive explanation of the officiating and rules of the NFL than Blandino,” Gaudelli said. “We are thrilled to be able to tap in to his expertise and offer this service to the Sunday Night Football audience.”
While Fox’s Pereira and ESPN’s Gerry Austin (a former NFL referee) offer astute observation and analysis of the rules, Blandino’s opinion is better than expert. It is a verdict, and it is subject to reversal only through more extensive film review or a successful appeal by a dinged official. This places the crew of officials working the NBC game under an extraordinary inspection, as their boss can provide a rolling critique through the game.
What appears likely, however, is that Blandino will stick to the rule interpretations that were discussed at the officiating clinics or are in the rulebook, the official casebook (a book of hypothetical plays and the approved rulings), and any training videos he sends to the officials.
Gaudelli has been producing primetime NFL games since 1990 with Sunday Night Football on ESPN, then Monday Night Football on ABC, and back to Sunday Night Football on NBC. Presiding over the showcase game of the week, Gaudelli says he has had to adapt the coverage with the evolution of the game.
“Football used to be a game of inches, now it’s a game of frames,” he said.
“One of the biggest responsibilities we have as broadcasters is to present the rules accurately and have replays that enable the officials to get the calls right. We take both of those elements very seriously.”
CBS, currently, is the only NFL broadcaster without a rules analyst.