As the NFL continues to try to improve the replay process, the league desperately needs to take a page from the CFL playbook.
The NFL needs to make pass interference, and the lack thereof, subject to replay review.
During Monday night’s game between the Eagles and Bears, the latest example of a blatant non-call of interference happened, when Chicago defensive back Jacoby Glenn made contact, multiple times, with Philadelphia receiver Nelson Agholor on a long throw from quarterback Carson Wentz. No flag was thrown by the official who saw, or should have seen, clear evidence of pass interference. While the failure to throw the flag didn’t impact the outcome of the game, the decision not to give the Eagles the ball at the spot of the foul was not only an error but also a correctable one — if the NFL allowed replay review in those circumstances.
The NFL traditionally has resisted the use of replay for pass interference because the question entails judgment and subjectivity. Perhaps that’s true when the application of the rules is subtle an nuanced and, ultimately, not conducive to second-guessing via the 50-drunks-in-a-bar replay standard. But when the failure to call pass interference is so clear that even Jon Gruden, who routinely gripes about officials throwing flags too frequently, argued that the flag should have been thrown, replay should be available to fix it.
Clear errors by officials, regardless of form or type, should be fixable. Clear errors regarding the failure to throw a flag that can swing 50 yards or more of field position absolutely should be fixed.
Hopefully, the NFL will be willing to study the CFL’s experience with replay review of pass interference, and sufficiently ego-free to embrace an idea that the CFL hatched before its more established counterpart. Hopefully, that will happen before officials fail to call pass interference in a situation that decides the outcome of a postseason game.
If that ever occurs, it’s safe to say that replay review for interference calls will be adopted not long thereafter.