The NFL adopted a new rule recently allowing NFL coaches to now challenge offensive pass interference (OPI) and defensive pass interference (DPI). The coach can throw the red challenge flag to try to overturn a perceived bad call, or one that was not originally called on the field. In the final two minutes of either half, those judgments are left up to the booth to determine. On paper, the change looks fantastic due to the horrid non-call in the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship game this past season. While it looks fantastic on paper, they do not play the game on paper.
Needless to say, the genie has been let out of the bottle with this decision, and will not be pushed back in.
Four reasons why:
1. Pass interference is one of those calls is at the referee’s discretion and can be possibly called on every play. Some crews let players jostle for position and hand fight, while others call the game strictly by the book. Will the slightest of bumps or the vaguest of hand fighting be called now? While the NFL has regulated what is and what does not make up a catch, the league will have to do the same for DPI and OPI. The NFL’s new rule change is intended to fix the egregious calls, but what about the slightest of judgment calls?
2. The Hail Mary is one of the least successful plays in the game, but the one that stops your heart during the progress. During every Hail Mary play, a ref could throw a flag for DPI or OPI while players crash into each other jockeying for position. How often is interference called? Can anyone think of a time it ever happened? That will change and could change outcomes of games for better or worse.
3. Does anyone believe this is just a one-off and no further plays will be put up for review in the future? In 1978 the NFL initiated the Mel Blount Rule. In the following two years, spearing and clothes-lining were outlawed. Fast forward four decades and now defenders get flagged for unintentionally hitting wideouts in the head and neck area, let alone separating a “defenseless” receiver from the ball. It is the nature of the NFL to further the integrity of their product. DPI and OPI will not be the first, or the last, plays to be the subject for review in the future. That is not how the NFL works.
4. Will this increase the length of games? While it is important to get the calls right the first time, in the final two minutes of either half plays are scrutinized by the booth. The networks bring anywhere from 12 to 20 cameras to game. How many of those angles will the booth review personnel want to see? All? (Fun fact: In 1939, NBC broadcast the first pro football game with two cameras.) Could four-hour games become the norm?
No one is against fixing bad calls during the NFL games, but implementing using replay is taking an imperfect game out of imperfect human’s hands and putting the calls into another imperfect human’s hands. It is a bad step in the wrong direction. The length that the challenges to the plays in the final two minutes of a game or half will make advertisers giddy with excitement and fans groan with displeasure.
In the next five or ten years will there be more penalties allowed to be reviewed and will coaches be allowed more challenges to make up for the number of reasons a play can be reviewed? Only makes sense that that would go hand in hand.
Quotes by a few head coaches:
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
“My opinion, it’s a bad idea. I think when you slow it down, frame-by-frame and do it (by) letter of the law, it can be very ticky tacky.
“I sat in with the coaches yesterday, and we talked about one play that we slowed down frame-by-frame-by-frame. Even the offensive coaches didn’t think it was pass interference, except maybe Bruce (Arians).”
Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
“Let’s make sure the standard of what OPI or DPI is, if we go down that road, let’s make sure that everybody’s working from the same standard.”
Anthony Lynn, Los Angeles Chargers
“We’re talking about it. We’d like to come up with something to take care of the egregious missed calls. Officials are human. They make mistakes.
“At the same time, trying to make this game a perfect game — that’s not realistic. We don’t want to slow it down. I’m sure we can come up with something.”
Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers
“I’m still trying to mull that one over, because when you really slow it down, it just depends. Are we watching it at live speed, or are we slowing it down? I think it could be a slippery slope. When you’re watching it (at) so many frames per second, it’s really slow, everything looks like pass interference.
“I think I think there’s an element to be able to officiate the game at live speed. For example, a great clip of this happening was in the Super Bowl, when Brandin Cooks was (catching) a go ball. It was 10-3, late in the game, and he got his arm tugged. At live speed, it didn’t necessarily look like PI, but when you slow it down, it did.
“But yeah, I think it could be a slippery slope.”