Replay review for pass interference remains a work in progress


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.

41 responses to “Replay review for pass interference remains a work in progress

  1. The no calls in the Eagles – Packers game on Thursday night add credence to the idea that games are, indeed, fixed.

  2. Unfortunately common sense will lose and the league will redefine the rules, making them even more convoluted. Then, after shafting every team multiple times will scrap the whole thing in 2022.

  3. They better figure this out VERY QUICKLY because right now it looks like nobody knows what they are doing. The refs should think “when in doubt throw a flag” but should not be able to blow a whistle and call a play dead. Let the officials on the field do their best, and let the eyes in the skies handle the rest. The cats in the NFL are bigger, stronger, and much faster then in days gone by. I give refs credit … I just don’t want them to officiate like they are afraid to be over ruled. WHO CARES? Just get the call right. What really sucks is when the replay booth blow a call. NO EXCUSE for that !

  4. For an organization with 32 teams worth over $50 billion you would think they would be better run and less spur of the moment inconsistent. If a manufacturing company operated that way it would soon be out of business.
    The NFL has been poorly run for years.
    Don’t they ever learn?

  5. In this game the Eagles also challenged a non call for pass interference on Jeffrey that the call on the field stood for. It would have been a big first down. It did not look like PI at full speed, but in super slow mo you could see the defender pulled Jeffry’s main arm going to catch the ball in and held it against his chest. Clearly PI, but it was not overcalled. The Maddox call was even more blatant, but you can’t mention one call without the other.

  6. Why is that one so obvious, but Jeffrey getting his hands pulled down not obvious?dont get me wrong, it was interference, but a call like that is missed every week

    It’s not that complicated, they aren’t overturning bang bang plays. They are overturning penalties that are so bad, they aren’t really a judgement call anymore. Anything besides that is being left alone. Why is that hard to understand?

  7. Yes it certainly was clearly PI, so was the one on Jeffery. Maddox was more blatant as he hit dude in the face but the one on Jeffrey was less blatant but the DB still got there way early and grabbed his hand so he couldn’t catch the ball

  8. I just want it to be consistent. The Packers – Eagles game alone should have made them get rid of the PI challenge just like the Fail Mary got them to resolve the dispute with the referees union. Sticking a hand inside a face mask is interference. Grabbing a receiver’s hand/arm is interference. The only thing I’ve seen that could be considered consistent is the blocking down field call against the Packers and the prior week against the Vikings, and I think that’s a bad rule anyway.

  9. Wondering if that Saints play happened again today and was reviewed under this new PI rule if it would be left as a no call and not have be overturned. That crazy bunch making the decisions would probably look at it as incidental contact.

  10. One thing i would bet on is that now that the packers suffered from the fixed calls there will be some quick changes. Just like when Rodgers’ collerbone was broken or Brady’s leg was injured, quick we’ll take of you rule changes. So fixed its unbelievable.

  11. This is the consequence of having replays and challenges in the NFL. Now we’ve opened a Pandoras box where we have to constantly decide and update what is able to be challenged, whats the standard for overturning it, etc etc….So now you’ve got a system that constantly ruins the flow of the game, and for what? These days we have even more controversies and games where missed/wrong calls are seemingly the deciding factor!! I dont think its unfair to say the refs have been getting worse over time

  12. Before trying to figure out a way to fix something, you have to want to fix it. The NFL doesn’t want to fix it. College football has a system where someone is watching video from the booth and they correct the calls without slowing down the game. There aren’t any challenges from coaches. That is just the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of and the people running the NFL aren’t dumb. They just want us to think they are, and their plan is working. We sit here all week long talking about the bad calls and that’s exactly the plan. We’re not talking about baseball or basketball or NCAA football. We’re sitting here talking about the NFL even though no games are being played. Don’t ever think the folks running the league are dumb. Every owner signs off on all these new rules. The owners own the league. The refs and the commissioner work for them.

  13. This isn’t that complicated. Make the minimal investment in technology (no, that isn’t a bunch of suits miles away in NY or guys still dragging chains out physically) and go with the college football model. They get it right more often than not and have far less mistakes.

    This appears to be a leadership issue, more than anything. It’s not that complicated!

  14. This is how replay should work in all sports. It should be to fix clear mistakes, not to get every call right, which is impossible. I hate waiting 5 minutes while they look frame by frame to see if someone was out of bounds. Give it 2 looks if it isn’t totally obvious leave whatever the call was on the field…

  15. Disaster in progress you mean. Riveron – incompetent. Most of the refs – incompetent. Goodell – utterly and totally incompetent.

    With that structure in place it will only get worse and not better

  16. There was also a review (per a challenge by Pederson) on a pass to Alshon that didn’t go the right way. The call on the field was “Incomplete,” but the replay showed clearly that King hit Alshon’s hand just before the ball arrived, preventing him from making the catch. It was all subtle, but the slowed down replay made it absolutely clear: the defender did interfere with the receiver’s ability to catch the ball before it arrived. There’s no way the guy in the Eagles’ booth would have told Pederson to throw the challenge flag on something that close if it wasn’t clear, despite it all being based on subtle movements. But they let the ruling of “Incomplete” stand, with no real explanation.

    The bad verdict seemed to me to be a combination of a couple of things:

    – at the level of subtlety we’ve reached when we’re reviewing something as PI or whether or not a catch is a catch, refs are demonstrating a growing tendency to bow down to the authority of the “ruling on the field,” giving it a distorted importance when movements are subtle, not obvious, even though they are conclusive for an overruling.

    – teams are hiring rulebook geeks who are generally more intelligent than the refs and know how to apply the rules to the video in front of them better than the refs. They advise their coaches to make challenges that are legit, only to have them be unsuccessful because the zebras are increasingly defensive about their on-field authority.

  17. Review hasn’t improved the quality of officiating and that is a huge problem for the NFL. Inept officiating has been plaguing the league for too long.Finally fix it Roger.

  18. It’s simple really. If you want to get it 100% correct every time add a few more cameras. Remove the Zebras from the field other than one guy who throws a flag when told to. The cameras cover every player. 7 or 8 Refs in booths are assigned say maybe 3 cameras. It would only take them a few seconds to see blatant stuff and a few more to really get nit-picky. They see an issue, they push a button and the ref on the filed throws a flag. That ref better have a mit-full of flags though, because on nearly every play there are going to be flags-a-flyin’ by the boatload. All infractions caught and penalized, double and triple reviewed in slow mo on every play, and relatively quickly. Add a chip to the ball to know exactly where it was at any given time and you have 100% accuracy. Either the first down / touchdown happened or it didn’t. Don’t even need a few guys to raise there hands to signal it.

    There, fixed. No more human factor and the game will be finally be completely unwatchable. It’s already getting close to that anyway……

  19. Bad calls happen all the time. Funny how the Patriots for the last 4 seasons are in the top 5 for the least penalized teams. Weird

  20. “Change the PI rule to 15 yards and automatic first down like college and high school,works there.”
    That would effectively end any long passes. DBs would be coached that, if they are beat deep, of, if the ball is thrown deep, just tackle the receiver and get a 15 yard penalty instead of spot foul. Better to give up 15 yards than 20 or 30, or a td.
    If they did that, it could be called the “New England” rule because it would favor teams that rarely pass beyond then yards.

  21. Work in progress as if these games are training camp which can cause a team to win or lose or make playoffs or cause coaches to lose jobs. The NFL today keeps going backwards

  22. It baffles me that when faced with the choice as to whether football is somehow fixed or that the officials are merely not very good at their job – so many people immediately jump on the much less likely belief that the league is systematically blowing calls to favor one team or another. I think its pretty obvious – they just dont know what they’re doing.

  23. Well the refs did not throw any holding calls against the Packers that were accepted when they played the Vikings. They were very picky when calling against the Vikings.

    Last Thursday, the Packers were royally screwed against the Eagles.

    Not sure what to expect going forward, but the influence of gambling on how games are officiated is very much in question.

  24. People, the non-call of King/Jeffrey was upheld because the interference wasn’t egregious enough to even be considered.
    It simply wasn’t!
    If we’re going to overturn that, then we might as well overturn everything, which is something nobody wants.

    The interference on Maddox/MVS was clear, obvious, and very egregious, that is why the media, coaches, and fans have gravitated to that particular play as to the reason this rule is dumb and useless in the first place.
    Stop trying to compare the two plays, because the rule gets even more convoluted when you do.

    Personally, I hate the whole thing.
    Hated it from the first moment it was proposed, thinking it would be a disaster.
    And now, after having been proved correct, I hate it even more.

    What happened to the Saints during the NFCCG was heartbreaking for their fans and a disappointment for the league.
    It was a bad call, and in the end, that’s all it was, a bad call.
    Bad calls happen, the happen in every sport.
    It’s frustrating, anger inducing and makes for some interesting Youtube videos, but they happen.
    But please, stop all this nonsense with this dumb, still subjective, rule.
    Because right now, the cure is worse than the disease.

  25. johngaltwho says:
    September 29, 2019 at 10:50 am
    It baffles me that when faced with the choice as to whether football is somehow fixed or that the officials are merely not very good at their job – so many people immediately jump on the much less likely belief that the league is systematically blowing calls to favor one team or another. I think its pretty obvious – they just dont know what they’re doing.


    A third possibility is that their judgement is clouded by any number of factors including but not limited to:

    – no knack for grasping nuance
    – a general fatigue with all of the jiggering of the rules
    – ego when it comes to their rulings being challenged

  26. Why can’t they just make clear rules: If you see a receiver or defender contacted in the face/head,touch his arms/hands or push off, it is a penalty…both defense and offense.
    Oh wait they did!
    So the real question is why/how they refuse to see it, even on replay? It seems like the replay official thinks, “Well it was hard to see it in real time… so I won’t overturn it”…Seemingly forgetting that is exactly why he is there in the first place!

  27. This is not a subjective thing – this is not a hard thing to do correctly. Just make the call correctly and if Riveron cannot do it then get somebody who can. It works in the CFL and there is no reason that it cannot work in the NFL. Even the TD catch in the endzone where the officials parse the complete the catch rule. After the Megatron supposed fumble – that was stupid. Have somebody there like Blandino – who can make the call and is willing to take the heat. If 19 or 20 people in the bar think that the call is correct then the call is correct – use this mentality. If you insolate those few calls and make the guy responsible and only that one person, then things will be much better. This is getting tiring.

  28. The mistake was making reviews automatic for every score, turnover, and play inside 2 minutes. If coaches knew there was only going to be 2-3 reviews per game they would have to use their flags carefully and as part of a strategy. Making the constant reviewing go away, and add long more fun strategy to the game. I say make every penalty reviewable, but make coaches go back to only the 2-3 penalty flag system.

  29. If traditional eyeball-only line-of-sight calls supported the NFL for decades, combined with an unwilling acceptance of knowing the calls were all correct maybe 80% of the time…….at best……then I’m all for tweaking the calls electronically and correctly. Maybe it can increase the call-accuracy rate up to 90%. 100% is impossible, so, let that one go.

  30. From watching a game today, the refs should worry about calling basic penalties like holding and face mask. Even Fouts mentioned how do the refs miss these obvious calls?

  31. bondlake says:
    September 29, 2019 at 8:53 am
    The no calls in the Eagles – Packers game on Thursday night add credence to the idea that games are, indeed, fixed.

    As if the NFL would ever fix a game against the Packers.

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