So when Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton last week about Newton’s concerns regarding missed roughing-the-passer calls on Newton, what did Goodell say?
Glad you asked.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Goodell admitted that the NFL’s referees have an inconsistent interpretation of the most important word in the rules regarding hits on quarterbacks: “Forcible.”
The words “forcible” or “forcibly” are littered throughout the operative rule regarding hits to the head or neck area of the quarterback, hits at or below the knee, and hits elsewhere with a defender’s helmet. To be a foul, the blow must be “forcible” — and the officials must be on the same page about what is and isn’t “forcible.”
Currently, the officials aren’t on the same page. Goodell vowed to strive for consistency among the referees, the white-hatted crew chiefs who are principally responsible for watching the quarterback and calling, or not calling, fouls.
As to Newton, part of the problem is that his size makes hits that would seem forcible when applied to smaller quarterbacks not seem forcible when applied to Newton. The risk, obviously, becomes going too far the other way, with non-forcible blows drawing flags for Newton and other quarterbacks.
Regardless, the goal remains to find a way to ensure that all referees enforce the rule the same way. One way to help do that would be to make these calls subject to replay review, with the league office’s interpretation applying in every case. NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino recently told PFT Live that such a change is possible.