Five weeks in to the use of replay review for pass interference, the device has morphed into an emergency-only vehicle for preventing another Rams-Saints outcome. The league office, under the supervision of senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, is rarely overturning the ruling on the field, applying a standard much more stringent than the one he had intended to use.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked for his take on the situation during his Tuesday visit with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Jones said. “Jason Garrett made an impassioned plea at the annual meeting to let the coaches have the right to replay . . . pass interference calls to a certain number of them. What we’re finding out is there is a lot of interpretation on what officials will allow. I use the word ‘allow’ because you’re definitely having interference. You’re definitely having — I’m going to call it a challenge. You’re having defense bump and challenge a receiver. What bothers you is the interpretation. If you’re strict with the interpretation and say, ‘You can’t touch, you can’t interfere,’ or you got another one that says, ‘Look, that’s just part of the game to have those guys going down the field battling and touching,’ which technically it is not. That’s not the rule to let them have contact at all.
“Who initiates it? Well, we all see it gets back to judgment. I voted against replay. . . . I voted against it about three times before it became permanent and I voted for it three times. And in two of those three times, or maybe four of those six times, I was the swing vote on it. The reason I did was because after a play was reversed because of replay, on Monday when it got to New York and upon further review, about a third of those plays that were reversed were again reconsidered and wouldn’t have been reversed on Monday. So it’s very hard to sit there and add another layer of judgment.
“Replay, in my mind, should be there for a very egregious situation that was just blatantly missed. I think the one in New Orleans, the one that started this rule was egregious and should have been reviewed. But to have it on every play and the will of the coach to make those calls and have it done that way is really kind of not as succinct as I’d like to see officiating.”
That’s a long way of saying the bar is very, very high — and that it’s only going to be used to overturn travesties like the one that happened in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship. The sooner coaches realize that, the sooner they’ll save their challenges and time outs.
Way too many of them are wasting their time, especially when challenging a ruling on the field of interference. But even the non-calls, which Riveron had seemed to be willing to re-officiate by looking for clear and obvious evidence of significant hindrance, aren’t being overturned when in a strict application of the standard they should be.
So that’s where we are. It’s an emergency-only option, for the rest of the year. Next year, they’ll need to keep it as an emergency option or come up with something else in order to ensure there won’t be another Rams-Saints.