The New Orleans Saints are getting to see the officiating discussion from the other side of the table this morning as they begin the grieving process for the end of their 2018 season, coming up just a play short of reaching the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history.
The Saints benefited from a defensive pass interference call against the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Week 16 that occurred on fourth down and would have changed possession. Instead, they had first and goal and quickly scored. The league more or less would later acknowledge that a penalty should not have been called.
“There were a couple calls there that—you know, I don’t like to spend a lot of time crying about the officials, but certainly there were a couple of calls there that you still wonder about”, President Art Rooney II said last week on WDVE.
Last evening, the Saints threw an incomplete pass on third down inside the red zone with under two minutes to play. There was a blatant and egregious pass interference penalty that was not called that pretty much everybody has acknowledged at this point. Had it been called, they would probably be heading to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers know a little something about being on the wrong side of blatantly bad officiating calls this year. Aside from the phantom pass interference, they were wronged twice against the Los Angeles Chargers on touchdown plays. One was a long pass on which there was a clear false start. The other was a long punt return in which there was a clear illegal block in the back right in front of the returner.
Now that these issues are affecting the outcomes of some of the most important games of the season, it’s going to be very difficult for the league to continue brushing it aside. As has happened in years past in similar high-profile situations, it could finally force them to make an effort to address it this offseason.
“There are discussions every year about the officiating and the rules and a lot of that happens at our competition committee, which Coach Tomlin happens to serve on, so yeah, there will be discussions about that this offseason”, Rooney said.
“I think that we need to do better and I think our officials have a tough job. We’ve made their job tougher really in terms of all the rules changes we’ve had recently. I think we have to figure out how we adjust to that”.
It’s true that the officials have had to adjust to rule changes, but the most high-profile moments in recent years have not had to do with new rules. It’s just the quality of the officiating. And of the decision-making process about what gets overturned in review.
No doubt there will be pressure once again to put penalties as reviewable plays on the table for the competition committee this year, but unlike in the past, we may see a good amount of support for the idea.