PFT 2019 storyline No. 10: How will expanded replay review for PI affect the game?

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For now, it’s No. 10. In time it could be No. 1. Hopefully, it will slide off the list altogether.

After a couple of months of signaling that it was fine with the status quo in the aftermath of the Rams-Saints officiating debacle, the NFL overreacted worse than Andy Bernard when he couldn’t find his cellphone with the Rockin’ Robin ring tone, blasting a hole in the wall that keeps replay review from creating anarchy.

As it currently stands, the NFL took a sledgehammer to a problem that could have been solved with a scalpel, making replay review available for all calls and non-calls of defensive and offense pass interference. As explained to NFL Media employees last month by NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, what should have simply been a “break glass in event of emergency option” will result in plenty of fans breaking plenty of glasses while watching plenty of games get bogged down by plenty of extra challenges and automatic reviews, with Riveron taking close, subjective decisions made in real time and dissecting them (possibly erroneously) to change rulings based on something other than clear and obvious evidence — just like he did on multiple occasions with the catch rule in 2017.

The panic button has not yet been pressed on this one, because most are waiting to see how it plays out in the preseason. And if, like the ill-advised helmet rule a year ago, it becomes a disaster, it presumably can be changed on the fly before Week One.

And the change could be an easy one. The Commissioner needs to explain to Riveron that the league wants only to ensure that blatantly missed calls will be rectified this way, and that Riveron should not give in to the temptation to micromanage the full-speed assessments of the pushing and shoving and jostling that happens when the ball is in the air.

It’s been said time and again that replay should overturn a ruling on the field only when 50 drunks in a bar would agree that a mistake was made. With pass interference, the number should be more like 500 or 5,000 or even 50,000. The power to drop or to pick up a flag (or to simply call offsetting fouls and order a do-over) should be used rarely, and only when it’s clear and obvious and the judgment and discretion given to the officials on the field has been badly and inexplicably abused.

Like it was when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman blew up Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis with a conference title on the line. That non-call sparked a multi-day controversy, saber-rattling by politicians, a lawsuit, and ultimately an anti-Super Bowl parade in New Orleans. Riveron’s session with NFL Media employees identified for reversal via replay review two other calls (one from Chargers-Chiefs in Week 15 and one from Super Bowl LIII) that created barely a blip of controversy.

The challenge for the NFL in its 100th season — and ultimately the challenge for the Commissioner — will be to protect the integrity of the game from this kind of overuse of a tool that seems to be far too big and far too powerful for the person who will be in position to use it on a regular basis.

Hopefully the failure to do so won’t become the top story for the entire year.

16 responses to “PFT 2019 storyline No. 10: How will expanded replay review for PI affect the game?

  1. Legalize pass interference and holding when done in a safe manner. Make officiating easier, although fantasy football would suffer, boohoo.

  2. I don’t care how it works, when it triggers, how long it stops the game. All I care about is that it doesn’t send the wrong team to the Super Bowl where they put up an embarrassing total of THREE whole points, giving us one of the worst championship games in living memory.

  3. Hind sight will still rule the issue.
    The coaches will take the brunt of the flak. Fans/media will accuse head coaches for not using their challenges correctly.

    They should have challenged earlier!
    They should have saved their challenges until later!

    Sports radio/sports bar…it’ll be the same hind sighted outcry.

  4. I hope the main effect will be Saints losing a playoff game from being on the wrong end of it.

    The helmet-to-helmet should be what’s being discussed as that is already inherently instantly reviewable.
    Let the PI rules stand as is.

  6. Still want to remind a lot of you, an overwhelming majority of posters here were calling for this rule back in January, I remember the message boards. Wasn’t just saints fans. Better hope they find out how bad this rule is during preseason, otherwise the dude who said they’re not dumb and more ads will be coming is spot on.

  7. This will be just like last year’s rule that said you couldn’t land on the quarterback with more than 62.348% of your body weight. It will be ridiculously over-officiated early in the season and will change the outcome of a game or two. By midseason, they’ll realize how stupid they were being with the calls and by the end of the season we’ll have forgotten all about it.

  8. According to this post, we DO “break the glass” for the Rams-Saints call. And we DO NOT “break the glass” for the Chiefs-Chargers call.

    What about the calls in between?

    There is a reason judgment calls were never reviewable.

  9. I have a feeling that even though the refs blew it in the Saints game, that this crazy idea of a rule is going to be an epic failure. Never make a judgement call reviewable.

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