Yes, another flaw has been identified when it comes to replay review of pass interference calls and non-calls.
After declining to explain on Thursday night the basis for upholding via replay review in the Bengals-Washington game an offensive pass interference call that, based on the TV angles, showed no offensive pass interference, the NFL has admitted that the ruling on the field stood because the OPI happened earlier in the route, before the ball arrived and before the cameras were tracking the receiver and the man who was covering him.
“[T]he on-field officials called OPI for a push off by WAS 13 at the 50-yard line, well before he jumped to catch the ball,” the league explained on Friday afternoon. “There was no clear & obvious visual evidence from the available broadcast video that the ruling was incorrect, so the on-field ruling stands.”
The situation presents a very real predicament when it comes to reviewing via replay calls and non-calls of pass interference. Absent the assignment of a TV camera to every eligible receiver, visual evidence often won’t be available to review calls and non-calls that happen when the ball is in the air. So if a coach throws the challenge flag to question one of these calls or non-calls, the end result will be that the call can’t be overturned because the call can’t be reviewed — because cameras weren’t pointed at the conduct that resulted in the call or non-call.
And even if the network assigns a camera to each of the five eligible receivers, how will NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron determine that the ball was in the air when contact happened? For a defender, a shove beyond five yards before the ball is thrown constitutes illegal contact, which isn’t reviewable. Although multiple camera angles have been used in the past to show, for example, whether a player’s knee was down before the ball came out, it will be difficult if not impossible to splice two camera angles together to show that the contact definitely happened after the ball definitely had exited the hand of the quarterback.
For interference that happens as the ball in descending toward the receiver, it’s not an issue. It’s definitely an issue for contact that does or doesn’t happen before that. And it’s another issue to be considered as the NFL embarks on this new reality.
Here’s a suggested tweak to the rule: If a coach challenges a call of offensive or defensive pass interference and the contact happened away from the available TV angles, he loses neither one of his challenges nor a time out. That’s the only fair outcome to what could be a fairly common problem when it comes to replay review of pass interference calls, and the coach shouldn’t be required to essentially make a guess as to whether the conduct being challenged was captured on video.