The March annual league meeting is fast approaching, and we finally have a full list of the rule changes that will be under consideration this year. It’s not terribly surprising that a number of them—including both those submitted by clubs and those proposed directly out of the Competition Committee—seek to address the topic of the reviewability of penalties. Let’s go through them one by one:
By Competition Committee; to amend Rule 15, Section 2 for one year only to expand the reviewable plays in instant replay to include fouls for pass interference; also expands automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any Try attempt (extra point or two-point conversion).
This one is more limited than most of the others, isolating only pass interference as being subject to review under normal circumstances. As with most, however, it makes exceptions for all scoring plays, which is significant.
By Competition Committee; to amend Rule 15, Section 2 for one year only to expand the reviewable plays in instant replay to include all fouls for pass interference, roughing the passer, and unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture; also expands automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any Try attempt (extra point or two-point conversion).
The second proposal from the Competition Committee takes a broader approach, encompassing not just pass interference, but also roughing penalties. That was a huge topic earlier in the 2018 season, specifically with regards to roughing the passer, so this serves as a check against the new legislation of quarterback protection.
By Washington; to amend Rule 15, Section 2 to subject all plays that occur during a game to coaches’ challenge by teams or review by the Officiating department in the instant replay system.
By Washington; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, Article 5 to add review of personal fouls as reviewable plays in the instant replay system.
Easily the most liberal suggestion on the list, this proposal seeks to do exactly as it says: make all plays reviewable, including from the booth. These are two separate proposals that will surely be paired, but it’s best to split them up in the event of pushback from elements of one so that the entire proposal doesn’t fall flat.
By Kansas City; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to add review of personal fouls (called or not called on the field) as plays subject to coaches’ challenge in the instant replay system.
This one is huge, as it’s the only one that outwardly states that penalties that are not called should be subject to being challenged. None of the other proposals make for this exception. Which means that it’s surely doomed to fail.
By Carolina, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia, and Seattle; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to add review of designated player safety-related fouls (called or not called on the field) as plays subject to coaches’ challenge in the instant replay system.
The final proposal involving making penalties reviewable also calls for a partial liberalization of allowing non-called penalties to be reviewed, but limits it only to matters of player safety, so things like pass interference, holding, and illegal contact would not be here.
It will be very interesting to see if any of these at all meet with approval, because any single one of them has the potential to be extremely significant. It could also open the door for further liberalization of the rules cornering penalties in future years.