While a decision by the NFL to expand replay rules to allow challenges to pass interference calls has not been met with universal approval, it appears that it has the support of a player involved in one of the plays used by the league to highlight the need for the change.
An egregious pass interference penalty called against Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden was just one of the examples the NFL looked at when deciding to amend the replay rules at the owners annual meeting on Tuesday. On Thursday Haden voice his wholehearted support for the move during an appearance on the NFL Network when asked if he liked the opportunity to have a pass interference call replayed.
“1000-percent. Just because it’s not a five or 10-yard penalty, this is a spot of the foul. That was a 40-yard gain on that fourth-and-one. With those big time plays, you’ve got to get those ones right.”
As per the data released by the NFL, the incorrectly called pass interference penalty in the first quarter of the Steelers game against the New Orleans in Week 16 unfairly increased the Saints chance of winning by an extra 14-percent, while another questionable pass interference call on Haden in the fourth quarter increased it by a further 22-percent.
To assess impact, the committee used win probability, also known as game winning chance. Below is one example. The black line (@Saints) and gold line (@Steelers) show the game winning chance for both teams at each point in the game during their 2018 Week 16 matchup. pic.twitter.com/pR0nUOnKz4— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) March 27, 2019
In reviewing game winning chance data, the committee found that offensive & defensive pass interference have disproportionately large impacts on changes to each team’s game winning chance. For example, this foul in the 2018 Saints-Steelers game increased NO's win chances by 14%. pic.twitter.com/F3vT1lPFcV— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) March 27, 2019
Had these new rules been in place last season, Pittsburgh would most certainly have seen the first called overturned, saving them a touchdown, and possibly may even have seen the second call changed as well. Correcting the first call alone may have been enough for the Steelers to win a game they ultimately lost by three points, and a win that would have undeniably sent them to the playoffs in 2018.
But while crying over missed opportunities will do nothing to change how last year ended, fans should take comfort in knowing it should not be able to happen again. Well, until the replay official makes a mistake that is.