It’s no surprise to now see a major rule change come out of the NFL Owners’ meeting every year. These changes are voted on by the 32 owners after it passes the NFL’s competition committee. This year the owners didn’t shock anyone when they passed a rule that allows for the review of offensive and defensive pass interference.
Every owner passed this rule, except for Bengals’ owner Mike Brown.
Pass interference replay change received 31 votes. Bengals were the lone detractor.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) March 27, 2019
This is the first rule that coaches are allowed to challenge. Coaches can even challenge a non-call to potentially get a penalty called.
There is plenty to unpack here, but it is easiest to start with how this rule came about. When the Saints and Rams faced off in the NFC Championship game this past season, there was a huge blown call that clearly altered the outcome of the game.
Possibly the worst pass interference no call in the history of western civilization #Saints #Rams pic.twitter.com/SU0MXwHOWs— No Baseball Podcast (@nobaseballpod) January 20, 2019
Everyone except the Rams and the referees knew it was a penalty, but no call was made. The play came on a third down with roughly 1:40 left on the clock in the fourth quarter. The game was tied at 20, and the Saints would have had the ball around the Rams’ five yard line had a flag been rightfully thrown.
The no call forced the Saints to kick the field goal, leaving enough time for the Rams to get into field goal range to send the game to overtime and ultimately win the game. That meant that call directly took the Saints out of the Super Bowl. No fan base or owner would want to be on that side of that call, and Saints’ owner Gayle Benson’s letter following the defeat sparked what is now the newest rule in the NFL.
The way this rule works is the same way that a coach can challenge any other ruling. Coaches has the ability to challenge two plays per game with a third one if the first two were overturned. The booth initiates any challenge in the final two minutes.
The positive is pretty clear as you can see it would’ve had a direct impact on who would’ve been in the Super Bowl last year. It is always a positive step when you can say a rule will lead to the game being decided by the players and not someone missing a call.
Pass interference is also one of the most impact penalties that could be called or missed. Since the ball is placed at the spot of the foul and given an automatic first down, you could be talking about penalties that extend drives and create points.
So why would Mike Brown be the only owner to oppose such a rule? First off, it isn’t surprising that Brown would vote down any rule. It feels like if he could he’d go back to the way the game was called in the 80’s or 90’s.
However, it’s surprising to see Brown being the lone owner to try and shut this down. It’s ironic because you could play the Saints and Rams game again with this new rule and still end up with controversy.
During the drive prior to the missed call, Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff went to run the ball into the end zone on second and goal. He was stopped after one defender clearly grabbed and twisted his helmet by the face mask, but there was no call. The penalty would’ve given Los Angeles first-and-goal from around the two-yard line. Instead the Rams were stuffed on third down, and they kicked a field goal to only tie the game at 20. The following drive was when the Saints fell victim to the defensive pass interference that didn’t get called.
In short, there are still going to be obvious missed calls that have huge impacts on the game that still won’t be able to be reviewed. The question then becomes is it better to not be able to challenge any of those plays or to challenge them all?
This rule only taking a step in one direction doesn’t necessarily save us from the refs deciding outcomes of games, and you could argue that even if coaches could challenge everything that the refs will have an impact one games.
This certainly feels like a rule where we could see a huge shift in how challenges work going forward. There are fans who are likely excited about that possibility, and others who are frustrated by it.
Either way we can confirm that Brown is the biggest stick in the mud owner in the NFL, for better or worse.