NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent believes momentum exists for changing defensive pass interference from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty. Apparently, however, there’s not enough.
Judy Battista of NFL Media reports that the Competition Committee does not favor the adjustment, and that the committee isn’t expected to recommend the change to owners.
Apart from whether anyone prefers a 15-yard pass interference penalty (I don’t) is the question of why this is suddenly a thing. The NFL typically makes rule changes on a reactive basis, and nothing has happened in recent years to create any sort of outcry for changing the rule.
So, basically, the rule doesn’t need to be fixed, and yet someone apparently wants to break it.
As NFL Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay acknowledged earlier this year on PFT Live, the league always worries about unintended consequences of rule changes. By changing defensive pass interference from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty, the league would be inviting defensive backs to wipe out receivers who has separation and position on down-the-field throws, knowing that they may say 15, 20, 30 yards or more in field position by taking out a guy who otherwise has a good chance to make a catch.
Consider this impact at the end of a game, when a Hail Mary pass is thrown from, say, the 50. If there’s any chance an offensive player will catch the ball, wipe him out and let them try it again from the 35.
The situation raises a separate issue that seems to be happening more and more frequently. Folks who possibly want to see a given rule change will talk publicly about it, in an apparent effort to influence owners and/or members of the Competition Committee. Why else, for example, would Vincent try to create the impression that the pass interference rule could change if the Competition Committee is opposed to it?
Vincent knows that, ultimately, the owners will decide on this and every other possible rule change. Vincent’s public comments may be aimed at getting some owners to think that coaches and executives not on the Competition Committee want the rule to be changed, in advance of an effort next week during the league meetings to get the owners to act against the advice of the Competition Committee.
However it all plays out, the owners ultimately will decide which rules will or won’t change. Until they do, folks connected to the process may try to put their preferred rule changes in the best position to succeed by, among other things, telling the media that momentum exists for a given change when, in reality, it may not. The owners probably realize this; it’s time for the rest of us to start doing the same.