So what can the NFL do about the outcome of the Rams-Saints game? Probably nothing. Bad calls happen. Sometimes, bad calls have bigger consequences than others.
Still, there’s language in the rulebook that could, in the right circumstances, allow the Commissioner to take extreme action in the face of a grossly unfair result.
Consider Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1: “The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”
Even though Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman admits that he opted to wipe out Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis because Robey-Coleman believed he’d been beaten for a touchdown, it’s hard to imagine this being the kind of “extraordinarily unfair” act that would have a major effect on the outcome of the game. Then again, the rule is there for a reason; if ever it would be invoked, wouldn’t now be the time to do it?
And here’s where it gets even juicier. Consider Rule 17, Section 2, Article 3: “The Commissioner’s powers under this Section 2 include . . . the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.”
Basically, the Commissioner has the power to turn back time to the spot of the penalty that wasn’t called, put the teams back on the field from that point in the game, give the Saints first and goal at the spot of the foul, put 1:49 on the clock, and let the game proceed, tied at 20, with the Rams having one time out left.
It’s inconceivable that it would happen, but it’s sort of amazing that the rulebook even allows for this type of an approach.
And maybe that’s why the league is wrestling with the language of its expected statement acknowledging the error. Maybe the league realizes that, depending on the specific words chosen, the door to a Rule 17 proceeding could inadvertently be kicked open.