More reason to think replay review of pass interference will be a mess

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The recent effort by NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron to explain the new pass interference replay review to members of NFL Media continues to generate new reasons to be concerned that the league’s effort to avoid another Rams-Saints debacle will lead to more, not less, controversy.

Last week, Mike Giardi of NFL Media disclosed that Riveron (who usually conducts these sessions with networks on an off-the-record basis) explained that a Week 15 defensive pass interference call against Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller would have become offsetting interference fouls on replay review, given that Chargers receiver Mike Williams used his arm to get separation. This sparked several PFT articles regarding the potential impact of this approach on replay review of pass interference, with the overriding question being whether 17 replay officials will consistently apply the same standard when determining whether to activate a full-blown replay review based on whether offensive or defensive pass interference did or didn’t happen.

Expanding on the information disclosed by Giardi, Rich Eisen of NFL Media explains in a guest appearance at Football Morning in America that Riveron also pointed to a controversial non-call from Super Bowl LIII, which resulted in Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore not being flagged for pass interference on Rams receiver Brandin Cooks. Eisen writes that Riveron explained to the NFL Media employees that the new procedure would have resulted in a flag being thrown on Gilmore for defensive pass interference.

Because it happened with more than two minutes left in the game, Rams coach Sean McVay would have been required to throw a red challenge flag to initiate replay review. Implicit in Riveron’s belief that replay review would have triggered a penalty flag on Gilmore is the reality that, if Riveron believes that clear and obvious evidence of an error existed to justify overturning the ruling on the field, clear and obvious evidence would have existed to initiate an automatic review under the heightened standard for replay-review gatekeeping when pass interference is at issue.

Watch the play. Is it clear and obvious that Gilmore significantly hindered Cooks? Gilmore definitely makes contact with Cooks, but Cooks still is able to nearly catch the ball. Yes, Gilmore hooks Cooks’ left arm, but Cooks still pulls his arm up and puts it in position for the reception, with only a legal blow delivered by Patriots safety Duron Harmon (and/or the impending blow from Harmon) causing Cooks to lose control of the ball.

So is it clear and obvious that Gilmore significantly hindered Cooks? I don’t think it is.

Flip it around. If pass interference had been called, would if have been clear and obvious that Gilmore didn’t significantly hinder Cooks? No. Which means that, regardless of the call, the ruling on the field arguably should stand.

Riveron obviously thinks otherwise. Unless the NFL plans to replace Riveron before the start of the season, he’ll be the ultimate internal authority on matters of this nature for 2019. Based on his mishandling of multiple catch/no-catch rulings in 2017, concern lingers in league circles regarding Riveron’s ability to apply relevant standards consistently and accurately in real time. The explanations provided by Riveron in connection with the Super Bowl LIII and Chargers-Chiefs plays potentially amplifies the concern that the effort to prevent another Rams-Saints outcome will result in other situations involving far less clear and/or obvious interference calls and non-calls being overturned, when they just shouldn’t be.

So, yes, this will continue to be a major potential problem as the NFL’s 100th season approaches. And if the procedure is applied the way that Riveron seems to believe it should be applied, the league’s first three-digit campaign could be remembered for the regular torrent of four-letter words that it provokes.

32 responses to “More reason to think replay review of pass interference will be a mess

  1. And with little to no room for error, there are people that actually wager their weeks paycheck on the outcome. Some will even go double or nothing on their losses for the night game. YIKES!

  2. They’re opening such a can of worms and seem to actually KNOW they’re going to screw it up but like moths to a flame they just cannot make themselves stop before it all melts down.

  3. Another good question is: Will the Saints run the ball next time?
    This was Super Bowl 49 level of bad play calling. But somehow that’s under the rug now.

  4. One more time–!!
    Regarding solely the Rams-Saints game (I don’t know about those other instances) the
    instantly reviewable call should have been the helmet-to-helmet hit.
    The PI thing is way more confusing and more prone to judgement call than a direct helmet hit.
    Why don’t they concentrate on that?

  5. New DPI/OPI article. No comment on this article. However, loved the rule change that dictates those who wish to receive a DPI must be free of OPI throughout the action of the play. Puts a whole new look on things, and is a super change. It is like “contributory negligence” in a car accident. If one is guilty of same, the other is free unless his is determined to be “gross”. If push off OPI is decreased, maybe the frequent DPI’s will also decrease. My watching has said DPI is there many more times than called.

  6. You know what?
    I disagree with nearly every one of Riveron’s analyses.
    And it looks like some other people do too, including some movers and shakers in NFL circles.

    So. What is going on here? What is Riveron truly about?

  7. 1. There was an historically bad blown call in the NFC title game.
    2. People were really mad.
    3. The NFL had a choice:
    – Put on your big boy pants and explain that making PI reviewable would cause more problems than it would fix. The NFL could have added a sky judge or announced more training or more accountability.
    – Cave to public opinion and make PI reviewable.

    Hopefully this is a one-year mistake.

  8. This was a bad decision from day 1, letting Sean Payton whine his way to a rule change. Yes, it was PI. Yes, the call was missed. Yes, you should’ve been running the ball anyway. A LOT of you liked this idea 5 months ago, I remember reading the boards. I hope I’m wrong but I can’t see a way challenging for PI either way ends well for the league.

  9. I have mentioned in other threads, but I mention again that every crew calls games differently. Some call more holding than others. Remember the holding penalty that decided the Chiefs-Steelers playoff game a couple of years ago? Some crews would NOT call that holding.

    What then, is holding going to be reviewable? Why not, it’s as much a judgment call as pass interference, and just as subjective.

    The solution is to have any and all plays available to review, give the coaches one more challenge.

  10. “More reason to think replay review of pass interference will be a mess”
    What a shock.
    What’s a catch?
    What’s roughing the passer?
    The answer to all of these?

    Whatever the refs and the league want them to be at any given moment.
    Which is chaos.

  11. There is no reason to think it won’t be a complete cluster fubar. Before the woman’s world cup everyone was saying how VAR would make the game so much better, now all I hear is how VAR has ruined the game and it needs to go simply because some leeway rules are now absolute to the word of the rule under video review and any opinion/judgement rule like PI will always cause interpretation issues…next step is when a team sues because they think their opinion is better then the refs.

    Any judgement/opinion call will always fail no matter what because no two humans think alike it is simple biology. I think they need 12 people not one to decide if it was PI or not.

  12. For Riveron to say that Gilmore committed DPI isn’t surprising. Riveron has a well-documented tendency to want to substitute his own judgment for the refs’, to prefer frame-by-frame multiple-angle analysis and, basically drain all the life out of the game with his micro-management. This new rule will be a colossal mess, but if somebody other than Riveron were in charge it might at least not be colossal.

  13. All because the Saints, who won the toss were unable to win the game, unlike the Super Bowl Champs who not only won the toss but won the game.
    If I were a Saints fan I’d be more upset about the Saints losing the game despite winning the coin toss!!
    They had their chance and blew it!
    So now we have this new rule, ridiculous!

  14. We go through this every off season. Last year the helmet to helmet and kick off changes were going to be the end of the world and people figured it out.

    That said, replay has destroyed the very soul of football. I’d rather it be wrong 5% of the time and get to live and die in the moment than for it to be right 97% of the time and have the excitement of football stripped away while we wait for review.

  15. If you bet on NFL games you might as well bet with some guy who wants to play “I’m thinking of a number.” Both the NFL and the con-man have complete control of the outcome.

  16. Remember this time last year when everyone was losing their minds about how the refs would enforce the running back lowering his head and then there were a couple of calls in preseason and the problem just disappeared?

    Yeah, this is that all over again. It will be forgotten by week 2.

  17. It’s already a mess. Inconsistent and the current way cost a team a trip to the Superbowl. If you drop a vase and it’s in 20 pieces; does it matter if you pick up the big pieces and drop it again?

  18. Wait until they go to replay an OPI with the runner in bounds. They find no foul, but run the last 10 seconds off because of an illegal stoppage of play. Game over. Would never happen. Right lions fans?

    And it wasn’t Riveron that started the catch/ no catch fiasco. He was trying to fix his greatest critic failure. Blandino.

  19. That’s PI on Gilmore. He hooks his arm. Who cares the Cooks ‘almost’ made a one handed catch? If Gilmore doesn’t grab his arm, it’s an easy TD.

  20. Everytime I’m rewatching the highlights of that SB and that play comes up I wince knowing the Pats got away with one.

    Should have been called on the field. Imo should be overturned with the new rule. Can’t hang on a dudes arm like that.

  21. The only true solution is to abolish replay entirely. The quality of video replay allows us to dissect a play in more detail than the rules are designed for. It’s like measuring someone’s weight in ounces when pounds is accurate enough for all practical purposes. It’s too much detail to be meaningful.

  22. The head scratcher of today’ s world! With all the brilliant people and minds in existence we have Goodell overseeing one of the largest businesses in the world and Riveron is deemed the expert in Officiating . Something wrong here folks.

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