NFL coaches get plenty of blame for foisting replay review of pass interference onto football. They shouldn’t, at least not based on the specific manner in which replay review of pass interference seems to be unfolding.
As a league source with knowlege of the dynamics that led to replay review for pass interference told PFT, the coaches wanted replay review to fix only the most egregious mistakes made by the officials when calling, or not calling, pass interference.
Per the source, not a single head coach — including Rams coach Sean McVay — wanted the uncalled defensive pass interference by Patriots defensive back Stephon Gilmore on Rams receiver Brandin Cooks in Super Bowl LIII to be reversed via replay review. Coaches want intervention only when the interference is truly clear, truly obvious. Truly egregious. Som coaches also expressed concern about the use of slow-motion replay to search for evidence of interference, arguing that the review for pass interference should happen only with full-speed replays.
As explained last week in PFTOT, the standard for replay review of interference calls and non-calls shouldn’t be an extension of the “clear and obvious” rule that applies to objective decisions like whether the ball was out before the runner’s knee was down. It should be much higher for subjective rulings like pass interference, something so bad that the reasonable viewer would exclaim “what the hell!?!” in response to the ruling on the field.
But the NFL apparently isn’t using a “what the hell!?!” standard for pass interference. Instead, the NFL is using the same standard that has been employed for all other forms of replay, giving the Most Powerful Man in Football the authority to micromanage, one frame at a time, decisions that are made by professional officials in real time based on the inherent judgment honed by years of experience deciding what is and isn’t interference.
The subjectivity of pass interference calls and non-calls necessarily creates a band of discretion that the league is now invading and potentially bastardizing, searching and probing for evidence of contact that previously was ignored when a flag wasn’t thrown.
Of course, there were situations in which the discretion was abused, most notably when a receiver is flattened before the ball arrives. That’s the kind of egregious, know-it-when-you-see-it, “what the hell!?!” outcome that cries out for reversal via replay review — and that should never, ever take more than three minutes and 40 seconds to resolve.
There’s still time to fix it. The Competition Committee can convene a conference call with NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron and explain to Riveron in no uncertain terms that the bar is much, much higher. That unless Riveron exclaims “what the hell!?!” when seeing the replay at full speed, the ruling on the field must stand.