Speculation circulating that Roger Goodell told officials to change replay procedure

The catch rule is going to be a big focus this offseason, with the NFL admitting as much and Super Bowl LII serving as a launch point for some smart changes to how replay is handled moving forward. Turns out, things might have changed sooner than we realized and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may have had a hand in changing them.

On two different plays in the Eagles-Patriots game -- a Corey Clement touchdown catch and the game-winning Zach Ertz catch -- replay got involved and ultimately came away with a positive, albeit surprising, result. 

The reason why the results were surprising was they didn't fit in line with what we'd seen from New York's centralized replay. According to Mike Pereira of FOX, speaking on the Talk of Fame podcast with Clark Judge, Rick Gosselin and Ron Borges, it may have been Goodell stepping in and telling Alberto Riveron, the new head of officiating, to change how the officiating office was handling replay.

"I tell you, I talk to enough coaches and enough members of the competition committee that they weren't happy," Pereira said. "So I think the word trickled to Goodell and Goodell probably sat down with Alberto, who he has a great amount of respect for, and just said 'Hey, you gotta realize here, you gotta make an adjustment, you're being too technical.' And they probably did listen to not only me, but to [former VP of Officiating Dean] Blandino, who was the guy making the decisions. And when he criticized them, something had to be askew. And that's to me when it probably started to turn."

As Pereira explains it, the whole mess sort of started when the league decided to change to centralized replay. At that point, it was understood Blandino would be in charge of the replay review, but then Blandino bolted for FOX after the decision was made to go with central replay. That put Riveron, according to Pereira, in a bad spot.

"I think Alberto Riveron got put in a really difficult place. Because really he was not prepared for this job. The owners and competition committee decided to give New York the final say because Dean Blandino was in that position, and he was the father, the guru of instant replay. He basically had been making decisions the last two years anyway," Pereira said. "So they vested the right for him to make the final decision and then he bailed -- he came to us at FOX. It left Riveron and his lieutenant Russell Yurk basically in charge of making these decisions when they weren't ready to make them.

"What they ended up doing, was they ended up being too technical. They looked at a play and took it from a 0-base, ignoring what was called on the field and trying to guess what it basically should have been called from five different angles. And it got them in trouble."

And this is essentially why Eagles fans now hate Cris Collinsworth: both he and Al Michaels spent the entire season watching the league office overturn certain calls, like the Clement touchdown catch in which the ball appears to move in his hands, without him actually losing possession of the ball. 

But Pereira believes that the officiating office changed things up in the middle of the season, presumably at the prodding of Goodell, and that, "for the last five weeks or so of the regular season and throughout the playoffs," were going with a "new normal" when it came to evaluating replay decisions. Instead of just guessing what the call should have been, the office was, Pereira believes, taking into account what was ruled on the field and trying to simply go with the calls and only fix obvious mistakes. 

No one realized this was happening, though, because the league didn't make some sort of announcement. Hence the confusion on the part of Collinsworth and Michaels: the league spent two thirds of the year doing one thing with replay and switched directions midstream. 

Now the league gets to take a full offseason and really break things down, maybe even start over with the catch rule, and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to replay. Ultimately the officials got things right in the Super Bowl, so any sort of meddling was a good thing, but it sure was confusing down the homestretch. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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