The pass interference replay review experiment hasn’t gone the way it was supposed to go, in large part because the bar for overturning non-calls of defensive pass interference unexpectedly moved before the season started.
“[C]learly there’s this bar that’s higher than probably any of us anticipated,” Saints coach and Competition Committee member Sean Payton told #PFTPM on Friday. “In other words, the standard for a play to be overturned is higher than certainly I expected. So we pay attention to it, we see how it’s being called, we understand it, and we go from there from a standpoint of change, I think there are a dozen or so plays that we’re going to look at and say, ‘How was this not overturned?’, so we just have the fortitude enough to say, ‘Hey this wasn’t the right call.'”
He’s right. As recently as last week, the procedure aimed at calling pass interference not called on the field failed to call defensive pass interference on Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who clearly and obviously hindered Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins on a long throw into the end zone.
Payton has a suggestion for improving the process: Involve more people in it.
“I think it’s a challenge for [senior V.P. of officiating] Al [Riveron], it’s a challenge for New York when we go to New York and quite honestly, I think the numbers looking at those plays from a consistency standpoint need to be — it’s hard to be singular in that position, it’s hard for one person,” Payton said. “[Thursday] night, when [Saints coaches] meet on a phase of our game, you know there’s going to be four or five voices that can have thoughts and opinions that can help you arrive at decisions than one person, and I think Al does a great job and yet I think that number needs to be more of three or five, where we’re looking at it and we’re taking in all the things we’ve discussed, but clearly there’s a standard right now and we just have to pay attention to right now because that applies to everyone.”
In other words, Payton thinks that the decision should be made by a small group. Which makes sense; if the loose standard for overturning rulings via replay review continues to be that 50 drunks in a bar would have to agree that a mistake was made, three or five sober experts in the league’s officiating command center could be better than one.
While it’s highly unlikely that the procedure would change on the fly in 2019, it’s something to consider for whatever the league decides to do in 2020. And something definitely needs to be done, because this year’s foray into PI replay review has succeeded in one specific respect: The on-field officiating errors when calling or not calling pass interference have become far more noticeable.