The NFL has a reputation for being reactive, not proactive. In the aftermath of Sunday’s controversial NFC Championship game, the NFL may not even be reactive.
Three days removed from a historic (for good and bad reasons) doubleheader of Super Bowl play-in games, there’s a growing sense that the league will take no significant action to rectify in the future the blatant failure of the officiating crew to flag the Rams for pass interference against the Saints in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
“Will never change,” one head coach remarked via text earlier this morning.
It’s been a wild ride since Sunday night. Initially, the league office planned to issue a statement admitting the error. That process became bogged down in a haze of haggling over language. By Monday, the league opted to implicitly accept blame by leaking to select reporters that consideration will be given to expanding the range of plays that can be challenged by coaches, including pass interference. By Tuesday, key figures (including at least one member of the Competition Committee) went on the record to throw water on the idea of making a non-call like the one that happened on Sunday subject to replay review moving forward.
So why won’t the league change? Is it stubbornness? Arrogance?
“Both,” the coach replied, adding that there’s likely a belief that the circumstances that unfolded on Sunday won’t happen again.
But they will. Or, at a minimum, circumstances like them will. And the league seems to be prepared to assume that inexplicable mistakes made by officials won’t undermine the integrity of or public confidence in the game of professional football, because the public won’t ever vote with their eyes, feet, and wallets.
Sure, the public will huff, and the public will puff. But the public won’t be blowing anyone’s house down, because the NFL currently has no competition on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, and a few Saturdays from September through early February.
That’s still no way to run any business. The league always should strive to improve its product, and Sunday’s NFC game makes it as clear as clear can be that improvements are needed. But it costs more money to improve the performance of officials (including making all of them full-time employees) and a new embrace of technology could have unintended consequences (a common crutch to justify inaction).
So the league will likely do nothing because the league doesn’t have to do anything. And because, at a certain level, the league doesn’t want to be pushed into doing something by fans, media, politicians, lawyers, bloggers and/or anyone else who hasn’t earned membership in a clique whose members revel peering down their noses at those who can be quickly dismissed as not knowing what they’re talking about, simply because they haven’t officially gained admission to the football-guy club.