Here is my tongue-in-cheek suggestion for how NFL coaches should adapt to the new pass interference rules in the last two minutes when the replay official will take control.
They should call for a long pass on every play and instruct the quarterback to throw it deep even if the receiver is covered.
The reason for this strategy is that the replay official may stop the game and call a pass interference penalty even if it isn’t called on the field if the intended receiver and the defender jostle for the ball.
This obviously is not a serious suggestion, but then again, it won’t be surprising if the new pass interference rules cause more controversy than they solve.
Passing the rule was an overreaction to the play in the New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams playoff game where the defender admitted he deliberately interfered to stop a touchdown and the officials didn’t call it.
Really, how often is this going to happen?
Most pass interference penalties are judgment calls, and very few obvious ones like the one in the Saints-Rams game are missed.
The NFL’s competition committee understood this and didn’t recommend a change.
Former officiating head Dean Blandino told Deadspin that rules shouldn’t be changed because of one play.
Sounds logical. But the coaches – notably Sean Payton of the Saints – protested, so the owners passed the rule on a one year basis allowing the replay official and officiating head Al Riverton to call interference when they weren’t called on the field in the last two minutes.
The worst part of the rule is allowing the replay official to stop the game in the last two minutes.
It is one thing to force the coaches to use a challenge if they want to try to get a non-call looked it.
When the replay official has carte blanche in the last two minutes when the trailing team is often throwing, the game could be stopped multiple times and disrupt the flow of an exciting finish.
If the replay officials would only stop the game for obvious non-calls, it would be one thing.
But the replay officials, especially when NFL officating director Al Riveron is involved, tend to make decisions when the non-call on the field shouldn’t be overturned because they are not obvious.
The likely chance of problems in the last two minutes even caused the competition committee to poll the teams after the rule was passed to see if there was support for having the coaches still make the challenges in the last two minutes.
Alas, the coaches were against the idea. This is why it is a bad idea to let coaches run the game. They don’t look at the big picture and tend to think all the calls will go their way.
It didn’t take long for Riveron to raise some red flags about how he is going to make calls.
Riveron told NBC Sports that he would have called pass interference on the New England Patriots’ Stephen Gilmore late in the Super Bowl.
There was no call, and Rams quarterback Jared Goff threw a pick on the next play.
John Perry, the referee in the game and now an ESPN rules analyst, disagreed with Riveron and said he doesn’t like the new interference rule, saying in a Sports Illustrated interview that it opens a “Pandora’s box.”
“I can’t get there,’’ he said of the new rule. “I just can’t get there. I’m struggling with it.”
Riveron also said that when Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Williams was called for pass interference in the Chiefs-Los Angeles Chargers game in Week 15 to give L.A. the ball on the one-yard line in the final seconds, he would have also called pass interference on Mike Williams. The offsetting penalties would have pushed the ball back to the 10. Nobody knows if L.A. would have won the game if offsetting penalties were called.
In both cases, the calls on the field should have stood because there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn it.
Perry also rejected the idea of a sky judge in the booth to review every play. He said the assistant coaches already function in that role when they tell the head coach whether to challenge.
If replay officials and Riveron keep overturning non-calls that are too close to call or calling offsetting penalties when a call is made, the’s league’s season could be mired in controversy and the flow of the finishes could be ruined
The only good thing is that it could cause the new rule to be junked after a year.
What I am hoping for is that a non-call that is overturned costs the Saints a game. That would be a reminder to Payton that calls can go both ways.
Now if the replay officials don’t overturn non-calls unless they are obvious, the rule could have little effect and change the rare obvious call that isn’t made.
Don’t bet on that happening.
The league’s 100th anniversary season could be a reminder that less replay is often better replay.
Only the obvious calls and non-calls should be overturned. Not the ones where the call could go either way.