The one-year experiment with replay review for pass interference calls and non-calls is creating a potential year-long headache for the league.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the application of replay review to pass interference calls remains a weekly battle within the league office, as application of the replay procedure to the inherently subjective question of whether an opponent was significantly hindered while trying to catch a pass creates inconsistent results and attracts loud external criticism.
The criticism comes not only from media and fans but also from the teams. “It’s brutal right now,” one coach told PFT in the aftermath of Thursday night’s Eagles-Packers game, which included a pair of third-quarter challenges to defensive pass interference non-calls that were not overturned.
There’s a line of thinking within the league office that favors a simple approach to determining whether to put a flag on the field: If you have to slow down the video to determine whether a pass interference occurred, don’t change the ruling on the field of no interference.
“That’s exactly how it was intended to be,” one source explained.
Of course, that’s not how senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron described the new procedure when meeting with NFL Media employees in June. Riveron created the impression that, indeed, a frame-by-frame look at the play would be utilized to determine whether one player had significantly hindered another in his attempt to make a catch or to defend against one.
After a blatant instance of defensive pass interference in the Week One game between the 49ers and Buccaneers that wasn’t overturned by replay review, PFT reported that Riveron had been told to push the bar much higher. Mutliple coaches believe that the message to Riveron came directly from Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Now, it appears that the bar has been pushed too high, as evidenced by the failure to flag Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox for pass interference when he put his hand into the face and repositioned the body of Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on Thursday night.
There’s a belief in the league office that the Maddox maneuver definitely should have been flagged. The challenge ultimately continues to be determining the correct location of the vague and fuzzy line between the Rams-Saints NFC Championship debacle and a slow-motion invasion of the full-speed judgment exercised by the officials on the field.
Surely, something less than Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman oliberating Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived should result in a replay-review ruling of pass interference. The league continues to try, one week at a time, to figure out exactly where that line is.