Revised pass interference rules still could end up being a mess

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The NFL’s effort to prevent a repeat of the Rams-Saints uncalled pass interference fiasco has resulted in a long journey for Milan to Minsk that, at last check, seemed encouraging.

To summarize, automatic replay review will be initiated for pass interference only when the replay official spots, while looking at the play in real time or while screening full-speed reviews, clear and obvious calls or non-calls of offensive or defensive pass interference. It sounds good in theory. In practice, there’s still a chance it will become a mess.

And evidence has now emerged as to how it can become a mess.

Via the Kansas City Star, Mike Giardi of NFL Media has shared via Twitter a key play from the Week 15 Chargers-Chiefs Thursday night thriller that NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron cited at an NFL Media Summit as an example of the application of the new rule allowing pass interference calls and non-calls to be reviewed.

Officials on the field ruled with less than 10 seconds on the clock that Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller had interfered with Chargers receiver Mike Williams, giving the Chargers the ball at the Chiefs’ one yard line, automatic first and goal. Riveron, according to Giardi, explained that automatic replay review would have resulted in a finding that Fuller had committed defensive pass interference and that Williams had committed offensive pass interference, resulting in offsetting penalties and a do-over of the third and goal play from the Kansas City 10, with only eight seconds left in a game where the Chargers trailed by seven points.

So here’s the real question. Would the replay official have concluded based on the real-time play and full-speed replay review that the officials clearly and obviously missed Williams shoving Fuller away, as Fuller was interfering with Williams?

Maybe the replay official would have seen it, maybe the replay official wouldn’t have seen it. The replay official and the replay assistant will have to make those decisions quickly, and the video doesn’t reveal the same kind of undeniable blunder that was committed when officials in the NFC title game failed to see Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman blast Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived.

There’s a fine line between what is and isn’t clear and obvious, and 17 different replay officials may have 17 different standards for deciding in a compressed time frame when to initiate automatic review based on the full-speed-only replays that will be available to the replay officials. In a Rams-Saints situation, 17 out of 17 replay officials will (or at least should) activate Riveron’s remote review of the play from league headquarters in New York. But, in the Chiefs-Chargers case, would 17 of 17 find sufficiently clear and obvious evidence of offensive pass interference to engage a formal review?

Possibly. Possibly not. The problem is that there will be some situations where a replay official hits the proverbial button based on the full-speed replay, and some situations where the replay official decides not to bog down the final moments of a game with a formal review by Riveron.

Think of what the replay official will be processing in situations where “clear and obvious” may not be as “clear and obvious” as it was when Robey-Coleman struck Lewis prematurely. In the Fuller-Williams scenario, the replay official will be looking at whether the ruling of defensive pass interference was clearly and obviously wrong while also looking at whether the failure to call offensive pass interference was clearly and obviously wrong. When in doubt, will the replay official call for a full review? Or, when in doubt, will the replay official conclude that the presence of said doubt means that the evidence of an error necessarily isn’t clear and obvious?

The fact that Riveron is openly sharing the Chargers-Chiefs play as a matter-of-fact example of a call of defensive pass interference becoming a replay-reversed ruling of offsetting fouls suggests that, frankly, he possibly doesn’t appreciate this nuance. If that’s the case, the end result could be that too many late-game passing plays will end up being scrutinized by Riveron for clear and obvious errors, causing games to be slowed down for careful analysis of something far less clear and obvious than what happened in New Orleans.

Thus, although the ostensible end result of a multi-month sausage grinding makes sense on the surface, Riveron’s review of this play from the Chiefs-Chargers contest suggests that, despite the safeguard that the Competition Committee has crafted to prevent excessive late-game replay reviews, there could still be too many of them — because the replay official may be expected to call for a full review under circumstances where the evidence isn’t nearly as clear and obvious as it was when Robey-Coleman clearly and obviously flattened Lewis before the ball had arrived.

With the days winding down until the start of the regular season, the Competition Committee, Riveron, the Commissioner, and the owners need to be sure that everyone is on the same page regarding what this new procedure means and, more importantly, how it will be consistently and reliably applied in order to balance a desire to keep games moving while also ironing out clear and obvious mistakes.

53 responses to “Revised pass interference rules still could end up being a mess

  1. it really doesnt matter what they do, any rule that is a ” judgement ” call will allways be hard to get right. not everybody is going to see it the same.

    now yes i hope they can get rid of obvious missed calls like the saints rams game, but even then look at replay now, there are still obvious calls they dont get correct even with replay.

  2. If clear and obvious interference is now the standard for initiating such a review, doesn’t that mean that whenever the review is initiated, the outcome has to be to overturn the call on the field?

    And does this mean no coaches’ challenge/red flag throwing for interference?

  3. It’ll never be perfect, but if they can clean up some of the obvious missed calls as in the Saints game, ect. it’ll be better. If it’s ruled interference on both, they redo the play, so not a huge deal unless they continually rule that play after play.

    Personally, I don’t know why the NFL is so worried about games being slightly longer, vs. getting the games called right. (or as close as possible) I don’t mind an extra beer, bathroom or food break to see a correct call. These bad calls are by far more irritating, and sometimes give the impression to some people that the games are fixed.

    I’d also say, make every play reviewable. If they add one more challenge or not, I don’t care. But some of these unreviewable plays can sometimes decide a game. Who cares if the game takes another 5-10 minutes. (besides the losing team) Get it right.

  4. I wonder. How about the league hiring college football players to monitor the replays? Not just one or two, but several players to sit and watch replays and determine if a call was made correctly. If not college football players, hire college football officials to do it on a part time basis

  5. I’m pretty sure we told you it could still be a mess but everyone was in Saints hysteria and shouted something must be done anyway. They do something and you still complain? There is no perfect solution.

  6. Its going to be a total mess and lead to inconsistent application.
    Officiating PI is objective to begin with.
    The review will also be.
    There will be some team robbed a victory over a review of something that everyone else thought was NOT justified in being reviewed and reversed.
    I’m dreading it honestly.

  7. Everytime there’s a rule change or enforcement, it’s going to be a catastrophe. Then nothing really happens and everyone forgets

  8. I think we all know that calls are missed in most every game of every sport. Replay helps with getting more right than in the past, but you can’t review every play.
    I would rather have a few missed calls than watch 6 hour games where every play is scrutinized and the games have no flow…even knowing a small percentage of those calls are game changers.

  9. I think over a single bad instance out of many thousands, they have over reacted by ‘fixing’ something that wasn’t broken.

  10. I would just have refs in the booth watching every play and getting every call right, and doing it without slowing down the game. No challenge flags necessary. It’s the biggest no-brainer in the world. I could almost do it from my couch. Why doesn’t the NFL want to get all the calls right and put the balance of the games (and point spreads) in the hands of the players? That’s the million dollar question, and it’s one nobody is asking. Goofing around with all these ridiculous rules isn’t fooling me, but as long as we keep debating the wrong topic, they’ll do whatever they want to do, and continue to lead us around by the nose.

  11. PI and other judgements calls will never be 100% accurate.
    It’s amazing how the media demands perfection in sports yet doesn’t bother with perfection or even 50% accuracy and/or accountability for the politicians that the media supports (we KNOW which ones those are).

  12. Just think, if instead of the Saints it was the Pats the NFL never would’ve changed the rule! Plus if TB12 won the toss it would have been game over, unlike the Saints who won the toss and lost .

  13. A sky judge official for every game would help with the problem and reduce the need for replay but that makes too much sense. It worked too well in the AAF and it wasn’t the NFL’s idea, so they’re not going to do it or anything like it.

  14. Standard-issue overreaction followed by a bunch of unintended consequences.
    Totally unnecessary. Which is larger: the IRS code or the NFL rule book?

  15. TheDPR says: “A sky judge official for every game would help with the problem and reduce the need for replay but that makes too much sense. It worked too well in the AAF and it wasn’t the NFL’s idea, so they’re not going to do it or anything like it.”
    ——————–

    There are 22 players on the field, any of which can commit a foul. Are you telling me the sky judge is watching all 22 to be fair, or just the tv broadcast to catch only what us viewers see? If it’s only the tv angle, then that’s just cosmetic fairness and completely left up to the tv network to show a replay.

  16. “clear and obvious”
    ————————

    That alone will tell you everyone will disagree with something, as it’s also a judgment call whether it was obvious or not. And we haven’t even got to those calls where the ball is “uncatchable”. I would like to see how they factor that in.

    Either way, come Monday morning, losing team fans will be whining about it as well as all those NFL-haters that just complains about everything – even games they didn’t watch. That much is guaranteed.

  17. ebpatton says: “I don’t remember this being such a big issue under Rozelle or Tagliabue…”
    —————

    They didn’t have HD instant replay from 15 different angles for all those fake “outrage” fans to complain on social media about every single injustice calls/non-calls…

  18. We warned Florio multiple times of “unintended consequences” when he was pushing for PI review. Can’t complain now as you got your wish.

  19. Changing the penalty for PI would mitigate of this. Make it a 15 yard penalty either way. If the worry is that players will intentionally interfere to prevent a catch or an Int, add this. Offensive PI comes with a loss of a down, defensive PI comes with an extra down for the offense. Or something like that.

    Anyway, I am becoming allergic to all of this PI…

  20. akira1971 says:
    June 20, 2019 at 8:55 am

    ebpatton says: “I don’t remember this being such a big issue under Rozelle or Tagliabue…”
    —————
    They didn’t have HD instant replay from 15 different angles for all those fake “outrage” fans to complain on social media about every single injustice calls/non-calls…
    ——————-
    nailed it !!!

  21. Roger Goodell definitely has a future in politics. Much like the federal government any time the NFL sticks their fingers in something they make it worse. A great remedy can be starring them in the face and they do something else.

  22. Needs to be a rule In place that when something doenst go your teams way you accept the outcome like a man and move on !!!!!!!!!

  23. you could say this about literally any penalty in the NFL. some officials would call this that way or this way..some let the game play out and let the players play..stop looking for problems that arent there

  24. The problem now becomes more cheating for the Cowboys and Packers. We’ll have plenty of PI calls that weren’t PI go against teams they’re playing and PI calls that weren’t PI win games for them.

  25. Aaron Rodgers throws deep to win the game, but it’s an incomplete pass. Wait, they review it and call PI! The replay clearly shows there wasn’t PI. The move the ball to the 1 yard line and GB scores for the win.

    Or…

    The opposing team throws it and scores a TD for the win! But wait! They review it and it was offensive PI! When the replay clearly shows it wasn’t! Green Bay gets the win!

  26. If anyone cares about the world Cup. Two games were decided by instant replay that normally would not have happened and frankly shouldn’t have changed. It dramatically changed the outcomes of the game and the countries standings. A penalty kick that was missed. Not saved. Missed. The goalie had zero affect on the kick. Yet she left the line a little early to set her feet. So the re-kicked the penalty. The team scores and they win. Same thing again. This time the Goalie actually stops the ball. She never left the goal line but her feet moved so that she could make an attempt to save the ball. Re-kick and they score, tie the game and eliminate the other team.

    The Rams and Saints PI was as blatant as any PI possible, and should have been flagged. However, if we start to drop flags for every bit of contact. There will be no defense that can stop a team and offensive players will dive at the moment of contact to draw that flag.

    This will only work if there is some push and shove allowed and only flagged when a person trying to catch the ball is completely handcuffed from making the play. PI was already getting called way to often to the point receivers instantly ask for a flag even when it was a good play by the defense or just bad catch.

  27. Of course it’s going to be a mess. It’s designed and intended to be a mess. Remember, the two officials who clearly saw the PI in the Saints-Rams game are not being held accountable, and that is clearly the best way to handle this. You hear nothing about that. Instead, it’s another layer of rules and bureaucratic control.

    Consider: If those two officials on the field are not held to account, why will anyone above them, e.g., Al Riveron be held to account? And who will make them accountable? Goodell? Who?

    This fixes nothing, it just adds to the complexity and makes it even easier to influence a game’s outcome.

  28. akira1971 says:
    June 20, 2019 at 8:57 am
    We warned Florio multiple times of “unintended consequences” when he was pushing for PI review. Can’t complain now as you got your wish.

    +++++++++

    So, you think he didn’t know it was a can of worms?

  29. The real problem here is you’re looking for perfection.

    You’re not going to get it. These are still judgment calls – even on replay – and have varying degrees of subjectivity.

    There will still be blown calls. But a play like Saints/Rams could only get blown on replay if the Mob was involved. After all, no replay official wants to wake up with a horse’s head in his bed.

    But hopefully, the blown ones mostly fall into the “it was kind of close either way” category. Hopefully.

  30. Although those that run this site will likely disagree I believe America historically has proven most successful with less government. That goes for the NFL as well. For decades we watched football and new what a catch was. Butch Johnson’s amazing TD catch vs. Denver in the 1977 Super Bowl is replayed in NFL classics all the time but would not even be a catch today. Because the NFL didn’t stick to its guns and simply rely on the old Axiom that if 10 drunks in a bar know it’s a catch then don’t redefine what a catch is, but instead let instant replay spook them into a decade long debate over the definition , now none of us know what will be considered a catch and what won’t. A similar Pandora’s box has now been opened with this Ram/Saint PI blunder. Yes it was a mistake. Yes the ref missed obvious pass interference and it may or may not have cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. But instead of saying the reg Lee it, now we ha e to redefine pass interference calls and quite possibly mess up 1000 future games because we couldn’t just call a spade a spade and say the ref blew it in New Orleans. Over governing will mess the league up long before a missed call does!

  31. PI should be like it was in the 60′ and 70’s when I watched the game. It was hardly ever called.I would have loved to see Brees, Brady, and Rodgers put up the numbers that they have now in the old era. G.O A,T my ___. Unitas was great with defenses that existed back then. The other QBs, not so much.

  32. Looks like SWFLPC.INC is still trying to sell the false narrative of Brees interception in the overtime period in the NFCC. Fowler clearly hit Brees arm, and was clearly shown on replay at the time and is clearly shown in the videos available on line currently

  33. nflpoker says:
    Unitas was great with defenses that existed back then. The other QBs, not so much.
    >>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<
    Perhaps by accident you didn't remember a fellow by the name of Bart Starr. He was pretty good too I heard.

  34. The biggest gripe I think the fans will have will be the PI calls being erratic.
    16 officiating crews calling PI differently.
    It was that way when they started with the new rules for pass receptions. And that only took 5 or 6 years to get mostly straightened out.

  35. drummer1279 says:
    June 20, 2019 at 1:59 am

    It’ll never be perfect, but if they can clean up some of the obvious missed calls as in the Saints game, ect. it’ll be better. If it’s ruled interference on both, they redo the play, so not a huge deal unless they continually rule that play after play.

    Personally, I don’t know why the NFL is so worried about games being slightly longer, vs. getting the games called right. (or as close as possible) I don’t mind an extra beer, bathroom or food break to see a correct call. These bad calls are by far more irritating, and sometimes give the impression to some people that the games are fixed.

    I’d also say, make every play reviewable. If they add one more challenge or not, I don’t care. But some of these unreviewable plays can sometimes decide a game. Who cares if the game takes another 5-10 minutes. (besides the losing team) Get it right.

    ______________________________________________

    Just had someone today ask me what “blind optimism” means…thanks for the example.

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