The Competition Committee has gotten a blank check, of sorts.
Via Judy Battista of NFL Media, the NFL’s owners have authorized the Competition Committee to “tweak” the new rule that extends replay review to pass interference.
The Competition Committee will now have the power to revise the rule to eliminate automatic review of pass interference in the final two minutes of either half and to replace it with replay review sparked by a coach’s challenge. The Competition Committee needs that power, because the Competition Committee wasn’t adequately prepared for the onslaught of support for changing the rules to prevent another Rams-Saints outcome, resulting in a change that may have gone too far.
It’s unclear whether the Competition Committee also has the power to eliminate automatic review in all instances (overtime, touchdowns, turnovers). The obvious concern comes from the fairly low standard for initiating replay review — if the ruling on the field is not clearly and obviously correct, replay review is required to explore whether it is clearly and obviously wrong. With pass interference, the jostling and shoving and incidental contact would potentially require every play involving two or more tangled bodies to be sorted out via replay review within the window of automatic review.
Instead, it will be for coaches to throw the red flag when they believe that it’s clear and obvious interference happened (or didn’t happen). It will become even more important for coaches to save their challenges and time outs; otherwise, a late-game debacle like the one that happened in the Rams-Saints NFC title game may not be fixable.
That’s why the Sky Judge option continues to be the best option, by far. Coaches shouldn’t have to extend the guessing-game-within-a-game exercise of wondering whether an early officiating error should be rectified and whether the perceived incompetence of a given crew requires holding a challenge as insurance.
Maybe after the NFL bumbles around for a year with replay review for pass interference (the rule change is temporary, not permanent), the league will decide to make the investment of time and money needed to add an eighth member to each officiating crew, to put that eighth crew member in a booth with every available camera angle, and to authorize the eighth crew member to communicate with the referee as part of the first look at the play, bridging the gap between what the on-field officials see (while trying not to be trampled) and what the rest of us see at home.