Hail Mary plays could be exempt from replay review for interference

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The NFL’s decision to extend replay review to pass interference penalties may prevent another 2019 Rams-Saints outcome (if the coach of the team on the wrong side of the bad call still has at least one challenge left, and at least one time out), but it may not prevent another 1975 Cowboys-Vikings.

Some of you may remember that one. I remember it all too well. (As does Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy, who at the time was a student at the University of Minnesota.) The postseason game that resulted in Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach coining the “Hail Mary” phrase culminated in what appeared to be a two-handed shove by receiver Drew Pearson of Vikings defensive back Nate Wright, allowing Pearson to catch the ball and score the game-winning touchdown. (It didn’t help matters that Vikings safety Paul Krause sauntered into view too late to keep Pearson from scoring.)

If that ever happens again (and assuming that today’s NFL broadcasts would consist of sufficient camera angles to provide a definitive view of the push), the new rule aimed at preventing a major controversy in a postseason game (or any other game) possibly won’t apply. Via Judy Battista of NFL Media, the “tweak” (i.e., major surgery) of the new expansion to eliminate automatic review of pass interference calls and non-calls would also exempt from coach’s challenges the Hail Mary play.

That’s a somewhat convoluted way of saying Hail Mary plays would not be subject to replay review.

McKay, whose stubborn refusal to embrace the idea of replay review for pass interference calls and non-calls by hiding behind the boogeyman of “unintended consequences” led to a rushed process in March once he realized the votes were aligned strongly against his preference for the status quo, doesn’t seem to be concerned about the unintended consequences that will result from, essentially, using replay review to determine whether replay review can be used. Via Battista, McKay concedes that a “Hail Mary” play would have to be defined before it could be exempt from replay review. And McKay believes it won’t be difficult, since it would “involve time left in game, what is line of scrimmage, how many receivers in end zone.”

But here’s the thing, whatever the definition is, someone like Patriots coach Bill Belichick will devise a Hail Mary play that doesn’t fall within the scope of the definition of “Hail Mary,” allowing for the red challenge flag to become the Hail Mary to the Hail Mary and slowing everything down someone determines whether the play is reviewable and then reviews it for clear and obvious evidence of interference.

If, for example, a Hail Mary requires five players in the end zone, send four. If it’s four, send three. And if the rule is that only one player can be in the end zone, send one, fire it deep, and hope that as an unlimited number of defenders converge on the receiver, and that one of them commits interference.

The original Hail Mary play wasn’t like a modern Hail Mary play; Pearson simply ran a “go” route, Staubach pumped in the other direction, and then Staubach fired it into essentially a one-on-one situation. Although defenses surely won’t apply single coverage in those situations, adding extra layers of restrictions and definitions will serve only to make what should have been an easy fix (Sky Judge) far more complicated — and far less successful — than it should have been.

36 responses to “Hail Mary plays could be exempt from replay review for interference

  1. To avoid rules lawyering, simple do what BB has suggested. 2 challenges, able to challenge everything. I’d add in one change to Belichicks proposal: there must be time on the clock.

  2. If we’re going down this road, the bottom line is pass interference should be called regardless if it’s the first play or last.

  3. Either make all plays reviewable or none. How a play is handled should not matter when it occurs in a game, if an action is against the rules, it’s against the rules.

    I’d like to see Hail Mary plays subject to review mainly to clean them up and to make it an actual jump ball situation instead of defensive players knowing they can hold or grab arms with no consequence.

  4. Yeah… abandoning accurate, accountable officiating
    on the final play of the game makes sense.

    The corruption continues.

  5. Thats good, Aaron Rodgers wouldnt make weekly highlights if they could review offensive PI in Hail Mary plays.

    …….. Well maybe he’d make it for the playing being voided due to Offensive PI.

  6. Still no full-time refs or end zone cameras? Still marking first downs with sticks and chain from Ace Hardware? Yet, they still have the temerity to call themselves the Competition Committee. What a load of crap.

  7. This is reeeeeeeeeee diculous. Some PI can be reviewed but some not? This is not going to go well.

  8. kurdishpats1 says:
    May 22, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Pats would have won 3 straight if Philly was called for the last play of the game.

    ———-

    I actually thumbs up’d this. Because it it probably true. But as so many people had told me my entire life while belittling my “never gonna win anything” eagles.. COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA!!! Beep bop boop.

  9. This is all getting pretty stupid. There’s no way to account for all unintended consequences of rule changes. Making things more complicated and adding more judgement calls isn’t going to help.
    Officiating will never be perfect. Bad calls an non-calls happen. This whole thing is an overcorrection for one (egregious) missed call.

  10. Why does the league feel the need to constantly be making changes to the rules? How about the owners vote on a 5-year moratorium on rules changes?

  11. The NFL are a bunch of over-officious jerks. Marv Levy had it right. Pass interference with 5:36 on the clock is pass interference with 0:00 on the clock. Only the NFL could muck up something so basic.

  12. The NFL rulebook has spiraled out of control. There have been so many changes the last 10 years nobody knows the entire rulebook except possibly Belichick. The refs definitely don’t

    The more changes and the more complex they make the rules, the harder it is for the officials to get it right, and the more mistakes the officials make. That’s the “unintended consequences” of all these changes, it makes it almost impossible for the refs to do a good job consistently.

  13. Why does PFT refer to unintended consequences as a “boogeyman”?

    Everyone disliked the missed call in the NFC title game. But thoughtful football followers realized that trying to correct an isolated mistake by allowing replay of pass interference would create more problems than it fixes.

    With each passing day, the “unintended consequences” crowd looks smarter.

  14. IMO, this rule is going to be a disaster, and will only, in limited situations, work as intended. Can’t wait to see the reaction the first time a team loses because of two guys hand fighting, and a mysterious, inconsistently applied standard, in a close game, costs a team the win.

    I agree with SWFLPC.INC…Leave the game alone for a while.

  15. Said it before, and wil say it again… there is only one thing that can come from this that will be unmatched as the biggest benefit from this rule change– and that is the saints missing the playoffs on a PI replay review call.

  16. Indybear says:

    Still no full-time refs or end zone cameras? Still marking first downs with sticks and chain from Ace Hardware? Yet, they still have the temerity to call themselves the Competition Committee. What a load of crap.
    ————————————————————
    Don’t forget Gene Steratore’s Index Card.

  17. SWFLPC.INC says:
    May 22, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Why does the league feel the need to constantly be making changes to the rules? How about the owners vote on a 5-year moratorium on rules changes?

    ——————

    Best SWFLPC comment EVER! This would make them more reluctant to make sweeping changes because they ouldn’t have the fall back of “we will just scrap it immediately if it dowsnt work.” If they had the consequence of an ill-conceived rule change screwing up the game for 5 years, they would stop changing the rules for that fear unless things were REALLY needed. And certainly they wouldn’t start playing with things because coaches cry about blown calls and human errot that have been happening since the days of cavemen.

  18. Those are the exact plays that determine the outcome of the game, and often the end of someone’s season. If there were any calls you need to get right, it’s those Hail Mary plays. The NFL, for whatever reason, has fought hard to hold on to control of the outcome of games. That’s part of the reason they’ve tried to make the replay system something they’d hope we’d become disgusted with and want to just do away with the entire thing. The games are still quite entertaining, even though I think some of them could be fixed. I don’t gamble, so I’m not losing any sleep over it.

  19. I’ve accepting the fact EVERY year the NFL will make the game more garbled and confusing. It’s really difficult to truly get excited when you see a great play because there’s a 60/40 chance a penality will be called or just negated. The odds are getting worse every passing year.

  20. So the Hail Mary is not a football play and exempt from the rules? If that’s the case offensive lineman can hold and DL can deliver head slaps

  21. That would just be SO NFL. Building in an arbitrary exemption to the rule KNOWING it would eventually come back to haunt them. Then they could act all surprised that what everybody knew would happen had, in fact, happened.

  22. Whomever thinks “Hail Marys” should also be included in this potential replay expansion is a moron. “Hail Marys” should never determine the outcome of the game, most especially due to a replay over-turn. So one team basically has a victory assured and has been the best team that day but has it taken away by replay?

  23. kurdishpats1 says:
    Pats would have won 3 straight if Philly was called for the last play of the game.
    ———-
    eaglesnoles05 says:
    I actually thumbs up’d this. Because it it probably true. But as so many people had told me my entire life while belittling my “never gonna win anything” eagles.. COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA!!! Beep bop boop.
    ————————————–
    No coulda woulda shoulda about it – simple fact is Gronk and Hogan were totally mugged on the final hail mary, and prior to that the “Philly Special” TD lined up in an illegal formation – but notice that although Belichick was fuming with the refs on both plays, he never once cried to Park Ave or the competition committe about it.

  24. Don’t break the rules, especially on a critical game winning/losing play. A hail mary pass is a jump ball in the endzone, there will be contact, but it’s no different than any other pass as long as the defender is going for the ball. If a player knocks another player out of the way, pushes, or grabs, why wouldn’t that be interference? I’m sick of all the hand fighting, pushing off, or grabbing that these guys get away with. Stay with your man and make a play on the ball, don’t play the man, and this goes for offense and defense. It’s crazy in the endzone, the officials can’t see clearly, so why wouldn’t you want the chance to get the call right?

  25. I always felt the league approved of pass interference on hail marys. This proposal lives no doubt in my mind. Why wouldn’t a hail mary be reviewable?

  26. dudethedude69 says:
    May 22, 2019 at 11:47 am
    Whomever thinks “Hail Marys” should also be included in this potential replay expansion is a moron. “Hail Marys” should never determine the outcome of the game, most especially due to a replay over-turn. So one team basically has a victory assured and has been the best team that day but has it taken away by replay?

    ——————————-

    You realize the defense could choose to not commit a penalty on the play, right? Or that the rule would potentially overturn a touchdown when the offensive player shoved the defender in the back (Randall Cobb, Golden Tate, etc.)

  27. If someone is mauled on a hail mary play (Gronk) it is PI. They never call it when there are many defenders around the receiver, but they should. The rules can’t be any different than any other pass and catch opportunity.

  28. streetyson says:
    May 22, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    kurdishpats1 says:
    Pats would have won 3 straight if Philly was called for the last play of the game.
    ———-
    eaglesnoles05 says:
    I actually thumbs up’d this. Because it it probably true. But as so many people had told me my entire life while belittling my “never gonna win anything” eagles.. COULDA WOULDA SHOULDA!!! Beep bop boop.
    ————————————–
    No coulda woulda shoulda about it – simple fact is Gronk and Hogan were totally mugged on the final hail mary, and prior to that the “Philly Special” TD lined up in an illegal formation – but notice that although Belichick was fuming with the refs on both plays, he never once cried to Park Ave or the competition committe about it.

    ——-

    Literally the definition of “coulda woulda shoulda”

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