The NFL’s effort to prevent a repeat of the Rams-Saints debacle has created a rule change that will sweep far more broadly than the Rams-Saints situation. And that won’t be good for business.
“In my experience, I never thought creating a rule for one play — even as obvious as that play was — you can get bad rules that way,” former NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, now a FOX rules analyst, told Dom Cosentino of Deadspin.com regarding the league’s reaction to the NFC Championship debacle. “Nobody wants to see [that], and everybody wants to fix that. But I feel like, you create a rule to fix that play, and what we’re going to see is a whole bunch of other plays that are going to be impacted, and very few of the plays like what happened in the Rams-Saints game.”
Blandino is right, primarily because the new availability of replay review for pass interference calls and non-calls could dramatically change the way a game is officiated in the closing moments of each half, by at a minimum bogging down those final two minutes with a rash of possible reviews. Then there’s the problem, as previously mentioned, that arises from the replay officials applying different standards to the question of whether sufficiently clear and obvious evidence exists to justify a full replay review by Blandino’s successor, Al Riveron.
“You know, one person may look at that and think it’s clear and obvious — another may not,” Blandino told Cosentino regarding the late-game call in the Week 15 Chargers-Chiefs game that, according to Riveron, would have been altered by replay review. “And then once it goes to review, then the standard — they said that it’s ‘clear and obvious,’ but when you start to look at some of the plays they cited … that’s more of a letter-of-the-law standard. And it’s going to be interesting to see if they start overturning or creating fouls based on that standard, when really, on the field, that was never intended to be pass interference.”
That’s where the preseason comes in, allowing the league to see how the rule will play out in practice and to, if necessary, make more adjustments based on preseason games.
“I don’t think anybody knows exactly how this is going to play out until we start actually playing games,” Blandino said.
Again, he’s right. Here’s hoping that, once they start playing games, the league will make any and all necessary adjustments. Otherwise, the league’s 100th season will be remembered for entirely different reasons.