Proposed “tweak” of replay review for pass interference is more like an amputation

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The NFL went too far one way in March. It may now go too far the other way in May.

Only two weeks after Competition Committee member Stephen Jones expressed during an appearance on #PFTPM a high degree of confidence that the new rule that makes offensive and defensive pass interference subject to the full replay review system would not be tweaked in May, someone else from the Competition Committee has leaked to the league’s media conglomerate that the league may revise the rule.

Specifically, ownership possibly will authorize the Competition Committee to revise the rule as needed after the Competition Committee completes its meetings with teams. And the word “tweak” makes it all sound more innocuous than it really is.

The currently proposed change, if made, means that automatic review would not be available for calls and non-calls of pass interference after scoring plays, after turnovers, in the final two minutes of either half, or during overtime. Which means that the horrendous call at the end of regulation in the Rams-Saints NFC title game — the horrendous call that sparked the change in the first place — would have been subject to replay review only if Saints coach Sean Payton happened to have at least one red challenge flag remaining, and at least one timeout to lose in the event the challenge was denied.

It’s hardly a “tweak.” It’s more like an amputation. And the reason given for it by the Competition Committee to NFL Media (it will lead to “greater consistency” by not having “two different standards of review”) makes, with all due respect, absolutely no sense.

It’s still no surprise that this is happening. The Competition Committee didn’t want to change the rule in the first place, hiding behind the “unintended consequences” boogeyman for as long as possible, until the moment coaches and owners converged to demand action at the league meetings in Arizona. The Competition Committee’s attempt to do nothing resulted in the league not being properly prepared to do anything, which resulted in something being cobbled together on an emergency basis at the end of the meetings, without anyone properly thinking things through.

In the aftermath of the expansion of replay to include replay review, we identified several potential complications that may have been glossed over in the rush to throw a rule together. By including offensive pass interference, pick plays now become a potential basis for wiping out completed passes and touchdowns, if any eligible receivers threw a block more than one yard from the line of scrimmage before the ball was thrown. Also, by adding pass interference to the current load of reviewable plays, the people responsible for initiating and conducting replay review may not be able to handle the increased demands efficiently and effectively.

The proposed “tweak” leaked on Thursday to league-owned media likely flows from a potential complication that hadn’t been previously addressed. Given the trigger for conducting an automatic replay review, it won’t take much to slow down a game while the league office rules out pass interference.

The standard for sparking an automatic replay review mirrors the standard for overturning a ruling on the field. There must be clear and obvious evidence to scrap an on-field officiating mistake, and there must be clear and obvious evidence that the ruling on the field was correct to prevent an automatic review.

When it comes to pass interference, plenty of rulings (both calls and non-calls) will not be clearly and obviously correct. Which will require a closer look via the full-blown replay review function. Which will slow down the game in those specific situations where an automatic replay review is available.

That’s what the league (or whoever leaked the information to league-owned media) was getting at when referring to striving for “greater consistency” by not having “two different standards of review.” The standard for overturning the call won’t change; the standard for initiating a review goes from the question of whether the ruling was clearly and obviously correct to whether the coach is willing to play the chess-checkers-chicken-cornhole game of when to throw that miniature red beanbag, knowing that only so many can be thrown in a given game.

This “tweak” would seriously complicate the challenge that is the coach’s challenge. Will a coach tolerate a bad call in the first half in order to have the ability to challenge a worse call in the second half? And will a coach ever risk losing a red flag except when it’s abundantly clear that the challenge will prevail?

And therein lies the twisted wisdom of the potential change. Coaches will be very careful about when to challenge pass interference, especially in the early stages of a game. Coaches also will become even more careful about challenging anything, because the worst-case scenario would be to have a Rams-Saints call and no way to fix it.

This proposed “tweak,” if it happens, should spark others. For example, coaches should have three challenges regardless of whether their first two are successful. Also, if a coach has no time outs, he should still be able to use a challenge with the price being 15 yards of field position, if the ruling isn’t overturned.

Whatever the outcome of this effort to “tweak” the rule, the fact that it’s even an issue underscores the failure of the Competition Committee to realize that change was coming, and to adequately plan for it. This issue should have been handled in March; it wasn’t because the Competition Committee believed it would be able to shout down any and all advocates for changing the rules.

Meanwhile, it would be a hell of a lot easier to just have an extra official who monitors the TV broadcast and fixes all blatant errors in real time, with the benefit of the viewpoint that the rest of us have at home.

50 responses to “Proposed “tweak” of replay review for pass interference is more like an amputation

  1. It makes more sense. It’s bad enough that judgement calls are now being subject to slow motion replay, at least allow it not to be an automatic after plays. Please let this go through. The less automatic replay the better.

  2. I hate the automatic reviews in the first place. Just leave everything to challenges so there is at least a risk reward aspect to questioning the officials. If you burn them all then too bad for you. The biggest risk I see for this new rule is when there is a non-call that is challenged and there is evidence that PI took place they will want to call it, but they won’t be able to look at possible other blatant missed penalties on the same play that may have offset it, like a bad hold for example. It will become unfair quickly. I think you need to leave it to challenge and then open up that any penalty could be called if the challenge process starts.

  3. Meanwhile, it would be a hell of a lot easier to just have an extra official who monitors the TV broadcast and fixes all blatant errors in real time, with the benefit of the viewpoint that the rest of us have at home.

    ————–

    Ideally they would have that and we would never know about it… they conference with the officials and change the call and we never know it was a replay call or not. That would be great.

  4. Just a comment on the ‘pick play’ for offensive interference….simple solution is call it what it is…an ILLEHGAL PICK…and penalize it as such…do not call it as offensive pass interference.

  5. I support the change. Reviewing replays automatically for pass interference or non-interference means the league treats passing plays differently than other scoring plays. For example, do we have automatic replay reviews for possible offensive holding whenever a team scores a rushing touchdown? How about automatic reviews for whether there was illegal blocking on touchdowns during a kickoff return or punt return? How about automatic reviews for illegal blocking on touchdowns scored after a fumble or interception? If not, why not? If automatic reviews for all touchdowns are enacted, then the game will last way too long.

    Even if automatic reviews are available on passing touchdowns, the play in New Orleans will not be reviewed because there was no touchdown. The pass was incomplete and the receiver was out of the end zone.

  6. Just a comment on the ‘pick play’ for offensive interference….simple solution is call it what it is…an ILLEGAL PICK…and penalize it as such…do not call it as offensive pass interference.

  7. Or maybe give the coaches three challenges instead of just two, so they could have one to save. Just a thought.
    It is interesting though , that despite winning the coin toss the Saints still managed to lose , unlike the World Champs who won the coin toss and won the game.

  8. Counterpoint is that we absolutely DO NOT want the league office totally on their own rehashing every pass interference call. It would be a disaster where 50/50 calls made on the field in real time would routinely get switched at the whim of whoever is sitting at the league office. There would be more controversies created than prevented. They’ll still no doubt botch reviews brought by a challenge but at least that would be a limited number and confined to plays the coaches deem worth challenging.

  9. How else will the Patriots get the ball down the field without pass interference? Yes the obvious answers are slants and outs to wrs using PEDs but that can only last so long.

  10. I thought every team has a guy on the sideline whose job it was to take the flag away from the coach’s sock at the two minute warning so the coach (famously Marvin Lewis or Jim Schwarz) doesn’t screw up by throwing the flag on a play under two minutes that’s not challengeable.

    Is that guy out of a job now? Because coaches can show challenge flags under two minutes now?

  11. I don’t want a “perfect” game. For it to be perfect, everything is reviewable and there are unlimited reviews. There are multiple officials watching angles of all plays in the books to rejudge every play before the next one to determine with 100% accuracy that is was correct and to flag every penalty on the field. It’s no longer a game that is in any way enjoyable. There is no flow to it. It’s merely a sterile competition with no excitement. If you want perfect, that’s perfect.
    Otherwise you need to be ok with an imperfect system and dare I say, embrace it.

  12. It’s a horrible idea to review these calls anyway. This will make it a little bit better. The Refs do a decent job and there has to be a human element to these calls. The problem is that now adays when a team thinks they had a bad call, or a no-call go against them They need to change the whole game. Then that rule works against them the following year and they want to change it back.

  13. When they didn’t change the rule immediately after the season someone made a huge dramatic deal about it. Made all kinds of dramatic negative statements about the NFL. Then they approved changing the rule and he then changed his tune and stated all the things that could be bad for the game because of the new rule. Now they are thinking of “tweaking” the rule and he is back to more dramatic negative statements against the NFL.

    No matter what the NFL does he will take the opposing side and try to start drama.

  14. vaphinfan says:
    May 17, 2019 at 11:20 am
    How else will the Patriots get the ball down the field without pass interference? Yes the obvious answers are slants and outs to wrs using PEDs but that can only last so long.

    —————-

    Here’s all the teams that benefited from PI more than the Patriots last year (from most to least).

    Saints
    Bears
    Ravens
    Colts
    Lions
    Seahawks
    Eagles
    Giants
    Falcons

  15. jman967 says:
    May 17, 2019 at 11:21 am
    I don’t want a “perfect” game. For it to be perfect, everything is reviewable and there are unlimited reviews. There are multiple officials watching angles of all plays in the books to rejudge every play before the next one to determine with 100% accuracy that is was correct and to flag every penalty on the field. It’s no longer a game that is in any way enjoyable. There is no flow to it. It’s merely a sterile competition with no excitement. If you want perfect, that’s perfect.
    Otherwise you need to be ok with an imperfect system and dare I say, embrace it.

    ————-

    Agree… and as we saw with the catch rule, when you start to analyze plays at a micro level in slow motion, the concepts in the game don’t hold up. It’s not meant for that level of scrutiny.

    Let the officials call the game and have a few challenges that can challenge pretty much anything. That’s the easiest way.

  16. Well, Mike, this makes twice – that I can remember – I’ve ever agreed with you.

    This is exactly what I thought when this story broke yesterday.

  17. So if I’m reading this correctly, this would become the only play that can be challenged after the two minute warning. Which means coaches will probably become reluctant to use more than one challenge for the first 58 minutes in case they need it in the final 2 minutes to seal a win or help a comeback on a pivotal pass play.

    Which greatly hinders the purpose of replay… the idea is to get bad calls corrected, not to handcuff a coach from correcting a call in the third quarter because there’s now a challengeable call in the final 2 minutes that could decide the game.

  18. The contemptible attitude displayed regarding “unintended consequences” is why everything in this country is going to pot. No one wants to even acknowledge that these things exist, let alone consider them…let’s just change, change, change…what could possibly go wrong?

  19. bullcharger says:
    May 17, 2019 at 11:29 am
    vaphinfan says:
    May 17, 2019 at 11:20 am
    How else will the Patriots get the ball down the field without pass interference? Yes the obvious answers are slants and outs to wrs using PEDs but that can only last so long.

    —————-

    Here’s all the teams that benefited from PI more than the Patriots last year (from most to least).

    Saints
    Bears
    Ravens
    Colts
    Lions
    Seahawks
    Eagles
    Giants
    Falcons
    ————–
    But if he wasn’t making stuff up about the Patriots he’d have nothing to say…

  20. My understanding is the automatic reviews DO NOT look at every aspect of a touchdown or turnover play. The review is to:

    Confirm a valid score or turnover occurred.

    The player properly established posession of an interception or fumble.

    They don’t look at non-calls occuring elsehwere on the field. The officials focus upon the score and turnover / recovery explicitly. They certainly don’t call penalties that may have occurred elsewhere. This standard is aligned with that philosophy — its not intended to ensure EVERY aspect of the play was correctly judged.

    The standard of requiring a coach to challenge a call or non-call is perfect. Nothing to get worked up about.

  21. Need to add a time-limit for how long a play can be reviewed before a call is made.

  22. The fact that they are tweaking a rule change before it’s even seen game action to see how it worked in the first place just makes me feel even more like this entire thing is a can of worms. I don’t see this going over well or smoothly however the rules end up being written.

  23. Get rid of Pass Interference and let ’em play ball. Problem solved. God forbid it be that easy.

  24. I just got back from the future, and this is the begining of the downfall of the NFL. in the future after every play they replay what happened for 5-10 min to make sure each play is 100% fair.

    then they stop to make sure nobodys feelings will be hurt by the decision. then they anounce to the fans if the play stands or if there is a flag.

    games have been reduced to 2 quarters with a hour long half time show between them that way games only take 6 hours instead of 12.

  25. Simple solution: let the coach review it as part of his challenges.

    Personally, I don’t think it should even be part of the review but if the NFL insists on reviewing, this is the only way it should be.

  26. You do a hurry up offense late in the game so you have the defense tired and off balance as you get near the end zone. You keep the pressure up because thats your strategy. They have no time outs so they cant stop the clock, and then…..

  27. Just like holding, by the rule book there is pass interference on 100% of plays where a receiver and a defender are near each other.

    If you allow PI to be challenged it is essentially a free first down. It is going to decide a lot of games late as the QB just needs to throw the ball deep down the sideline and the receiver either catches it or you challenge.

  28. amputation? seems like a hell of a gruesome way to break a leg, don’t cha think, willis?

  29. The simple solution is to all this review talk.
    1) In order to review a play, you need a time out
    2) Make all calls reviewable, at any time.
    3) The reviewed call can only be viewed for around 20sec
    4) It must be reivewed at full speed, no slow motion
    5) if you loose the review, you get penalized 10yards

    This way, there is consequences, other than the loss of a time out. I would make the coach have to think about field position more before he even attempted this

    Thoughts

  30. Just correct the bad calls as they occur. You don’t want a blatant call missed on a big drive with 3 minutes left in the game with no recourse.

  31. Well. Even though I agree, this might be a clown show, but at least the Raiders will be able to challenge some of the biased referee shinanigans.

  32. The standard for overturning the call won’t change; the standard for initiating a review goes from the question of whether the ruling was clearly and obviously correct to whether the coach is willing to play the chess-checkers-chicken-cornhole game of when to throw that miniature red beanbag, knowing that only so many can be thrown in a given game.
    ______________________

    That’s the whole point. It’s like a coach challenging the spot of the football. That coach better be damn sure that the ball was spotted incorrectly or he’s losing that challenge. The P.I. review must be treated the same or it will end up being some loophole automatic first down B.S.

  33. This proposed “tweak,” if it happens, should spark others. For example, coaches should have three challenges regardless of whether their first two are successful. Also, if a coach has no time outs, he should still be able to use a challenge with the price being 15 yards of field position, if the ruling isn’t overturned.
    ___________________

    Why stop at three? Why shouldn’t a coach have unlimited challenges if you’re allowing him to challenge plays without timeouts in his pocket? That seems silly.

    Perhaps give a coach as many challenges as he has timeouts. He wouldn’t lose a timeout for a successful challenge, but if he blows through his timeouts because he can’t get plays in to the QB on time, he shouldn’t cry about a bad call.

  34. The review “idea” and review “reality” aren’t working together. It was a good idea to use replay and make corrections. Then we slowed it all down so much that a horse, being a horse running in the mud, can’t be a horse anymore and a jockey on top the horse, who corrects the horse, get suspended, or a defensive player slaps a ball out of offensive players hand, in the NBA, and the video is slowed down so much that that fraction of possible ball/hand contact from the offensive player over the slap of the ball from the defensive player is overturned to give the defensive team the ball when it’s obvious that the INTENTION of the defensive player was to remove the ball from the offensive players hand, or the NHL goal that’s overturned, away from the play even though no linesmen made the call, and reversed as off-sides, and the world know the foot of the skate on/off the ice is inconclusive…… It’s become ridiculous. When does a game played and officiated by humans become boring? Answer: When it’s reviewed!

  35. This is what happens when you try to please everyone all the time. It’s impossible. Football is a game where every play matters regardless of the time on the clock. If you try to micromanage a certain play to ensure “the correct call was made” you opened up an opportunity for others to say “what about this play”.. Review this play. Then you just have more rules piled on rules.

  36. The drum I’ve been beating all along…this is THE ONLY GOOD SOLUTION (if they truly want to get calls right), the video official:
    Meanwhile, it would be a hell of a lot easier to just have an extra official who monitors the TV broadcast and fixes all blatant errors in real time, with the benefit of the viewpoint that the rest of us have at home.

  37. Again, there were a lot more horrendous no calls in that game than that one play and they went both ways. Even one being called could have had a major influence on the game.

    The PI review rule isn’t necessary. Just tell the refs to call the games as they would in the regular season rather than just “letting them play”.

    Beyond that, if there is to be a rule change, make it so that everything is reviewable and coaches have unlimited challenges as long as they’re correct. Two bad challenges in a game and they lose the ability to challenge further. Make scoring plays, turnovers and calls within the last 2 minutes of a half still all booth review and boom, you’re done.

  38. Just a comment on the ‘pick play’ for offensive interference….simple solution is call it what it is…an ILLEHGAL PICK…and penalize it as such…do not call it as offensive pass interference.

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