On Tuesday night in Phoenix, Arizona, after Andy Reid and Bill Belichick reportedly gathered together a contingent of concerned coaches, the NFL owners at the annual league meeting voted 31-1 to enact a new rule that will allow for pass interference penalties to be challenged and reviewed with video replay.
(The only vote against the proposal came from Bengals’ owner Mike Brown, according to Mike Garafolo.)
This is a significant rule change in that it is the first time in the history of the NFL that a penalty can be subject to video review and potentially overturned or added to the play.
Coaches can challenge pass interference penalties that are called on the field, in addition to ones that aren’t called when they feel a flag should’ve been thrown. Like all other challenges and video reviews, coaches can throw the challenge flag outside of 2 minutes remaining in each half.
The change will apply to no other penalties, and the 2019 season will serve as the NFL’s typical one-season trial run; next year, the owners will vote on whether or not to make it a permanent rule.
The now infamous non-call that occurred in the final two minutes of regulation of the Saints-Rams NFC Championship game was of course the catalyst that sparked these discussions. Had this new policy been in effect during that game, the replay official likely would’ve signaled for a review, and the Saints would’ve received the ball just outside the Rams’ endzone.
This new process will hopefully prevent pivotal officiating mistakes in crucial moments. Coaches and owners all agreed that what’s most important is being able to make the correct calls. It’s not like officials want to be the cause of controversy. Why not make their jobs a little easier?
“I personally believe it was the fact that every club wanted to get, and the league wanted to get these plays right,” Goodell said at a press conference immediately following the vote. “Replay is to get it right. And ultimately people compromised, I think, on long-held views because they want to get the system right. They want to get the play right.”
The new policy really shouldn’t make NFL games any longer than they already are. NFL coaches don’t get an extra challenge flag, and it will still require indisputable visual evidence to overturn a call on the field. Officials won’t stop the game for every instance of hand-fighting downfield, and only truly egregious misses will be looked at more closely,
The NFL has long claimed that bang-bang “judgment calls” shouldn’t be reviewable because there is no clearly defined decision (in contrast to, for example, a player stepping out of bounds). But to that I say: I’d much rather an official make a judgment call after viewing multiple camera angles in slow-motion than make that call based on potentially flawed perception of the live play.
While other penalties were not made reviewable this year, the door is open. According to the Washington Post, both Goodell and the chairman of the NFL’s Competition Committee, Falcons’ CEO Rich McKay, said they could “envision further expansion of replay in the future.”
It makes sense. Face-masking and other personal foul-type penalties are clear to see on video and should be reviewable, so in my opinion, it’s only a matter of time.
Coach Dave McGinnis appeared on the Midday 180 last week and, among many topics, discussed the new rule change. You can listen to that here.
Ultimately, even if it adds a couple extra minutes to a game every so often, the sport will be better off with this new rule.