If not for the obvious missed call in the NFC Championship Game, the NFL would not have added instant replay for pass interference. But it happened, and they have.
The NFL is holding its annual officiating clinic in Plano, Texas, this weekend, and expanded replay was all the talk in the media session with Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating.
Riveron said the only feedback he has gotten from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or the Competition Committee on expanding replay to include offensive and defensive pass interference is: “Let’s get it right.”
“We understand the play that elevated and got us to where we are today. Yes and no,” Riveron said. “When I say yes and no, this is the topic that’s been talked about now for the last five, six, seven years. The Competition Committee and ownership is constantly looking at ways to get better. We have discussed replay before as it pertains to other situations — pass interference, holding, personal fouls. But we do understand a play of this magnitude elevated us to the point where we are today. But again, it’s not new. This has been in discussions for awhile, and again, and I said, ‘Let’s get it right,’ and it’s all about getting it right. Our officials are very, very good. However, we always need to get better, want to get better, because we owe it to the game and if this is going to get us there, and it will, then that’s what it’s all about.”
Riveron said expanded replay changes nothing for on-field officials. They will call interference as they always have. It does add another layer for booth replay officials in the final two minutes of each half, and Riveron now will have to make decisions on what some see as a subjective play.
“Replay starts with the ruling on the field,” Riveron said. “Unless we have clear and obvious visual evidence to change that ruling then we stay with the ruling on the field. This will be no different. It will be no different from a receiver stepping out of bounds. It will be no different from the ball hitting the ground on an attempted catch. This is the same. Replay starts with the ruling on the field and then clear and obvious visual evidence.”
Clear and obvious might prove to be harder than it sounds, with everyone having an opinion on what pass interference is. Pass interference isn’t always as obvious as Robey-Coleman’s was (to everyone except the officials who missed the call).