The NFL welcomes its hundredth season this year, and with it comes rule changes, some small, big, and even controversial. The NFL makes changes to the rules every couple of years because, much like the times, this league is ever-changing. This offseason has been a little more active than usual, as last year’s Super Bowl was a significant subject to discussion due to a controversial referee call.
74,000 Saints’ fans witnessed the blown call that cost the city of New Orleans a chance to go to the Super Bowl. The outrage to the blown call during the game almost caused a riot down south. The anger towards the NFL because of the blown call was magnified to levels the NFL had never seen.
From Clown shirts to fake Saints Super Bowl parties and referees with Rams’ hats parading around during Mardi Gras. All of these antics in New Orleans were caused by the outrage and acknowledgment of the blown call.
Instead of providing the usual I’m wrong, the NFL took different measures. From New Orleans to Detroit, teams have lost because of a blown pass interference call, and a lot of the time, these outcomes have caused teams to miss significant games in their history.
So, what did the NFL do to change this?
The league implemented a new rule for the 2019 season, which allows teams to challenge offensive and defensive pass interference calls and non-calls. The only time teams can’t challenge the play is during the last two minutes of each half.
As beneficial as it sounds, it is only a start. The NFL is trying to fix their mistakes from the NFC championship game last year, but in reality, they are just putting a small band-aid on a big cut.
Unfortunately, the bleeding hasn't stopped.
Through week six of the season, not a single coach has successfully challenged a pass interference call this season. With zero perfect succession rate, the NFL's attempt to 'help' improve officiating calls has led to useless optimism by head coaches and a lack of accountability from NFL referees.
There is not any change forthcoming either as the NFL and its officiating crews seem content with constantly not overturning calls or even describing what pass interference is.
Everybody interprets pass interference differently, and so do referees. There have been countless games this season where the commentators refer to a play questioned as pass interference as face guarding, which is legal. Besides, during replay, everything looks worst then actually is. A little movement of a hand on a jersey or a defender's head not turning around completely might result in a flag.
The second reason is that most pass interference calls are judgment calls. Referees are far from perfect, and each particular official seems to have a different idea of what pass interference is.
Despite a review of the play going to New York for a correct ruling, like it or not, the result usually ends with the call on the field standing.
Overturning a PI call has little chance of success, but the kicker is, it will happen once during a playoff game, and fans will consider it the greatest rule to exist.
Throughout NFL history, there has been and will always be controversy. It's what gives sports a human nature. In the NFL, referees are bound to make mistakes, which leads to what-ifs and debates growing our love for sports.
*preview credited to Washington Post
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