By Jack Belanger ’21
After the blatant missed defensive pass interference call on Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman that shifted the outcome of the National Football Conference championship game that cost the New Orleans Saints the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, it is time for the NFL to follow suit with other professional leagues and improve their replay system.
While those opposed to making the play reviewable will point out it is a “judgement call,” the truth is, if a guy does not even try for the ball and is solely focused on inhibiting the defender from trying to get to the ball, it must be called 10 out of 10 times. When Major League Baseball decided to expand the number of calls that can be challenged, the idea was that it was important that the umpires get the right call because games should not be decided on a missed call.
Other leagues have also allowed judgement calls to be replayed. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), hard fouls will be reviewed to see if excessive contact is used. If so, then a flagrant foul are assessed. It may be based on the referee’s judgement, but it is important the league gets the correct call in order to protect its players.
With 22 players on the field at a time, there is a lot happening on the field at once, which means plenty of calls are being missed. By having pass interference be reviewable, the number of incorrect calls will be reduced and fewer games will be determined by missed calls.
It is not necessary for small five-yard penalties to be challenged and reviewed as most teams can make up five yards easily, but calling pass interference can be the difference of a 20 yards or more, which can quickly give an offense the momentum it needs or kill the drive completely.
Regarding other calls that get replayed in the NFL, unless there is conclusive evidence to overturn the call, the original call on the field stands. While we should not expect every time that there is a little contact it will be overturned, by reviewing pass interference the league will be able to cut down on the number of incorrect calls, and there would be fewer games decided by a controversial call.
Allowing defensive pass interference to be challenged should not slow the game down significantly to the point that fans stop watching football. Since coaches only get two challenges a game, unless a pass interference was obvious or on a crucial play, they would be more likely to hold onto their challenge for later in the game.
In a time where referees have fallen under more scrutiny than ever before, with camera angles that allow the average fan at home to get a close look at every play, it would be beneficial to the league and referees to allow coaches to challenge pass interference calls. It is more important to get the call right than to worry about slowing down the game. Getting more calls right means that refs will be criticized less, and games will not be determined by an incorrect call.