The Butterfly Effect is a maniacal concept to try to consider. Perhaps if the officiating crew that hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game against the New Orleans Saints in Week 16 had eaten a different pre-game meal, they would not have erroneously flagged Steelers cornerback Joe Haden for defensive pass interference in the first half of the game on a fourth-down play from the 34-yard line that set the Saints up with first and goal, rather than a turnover on downs.
Perhaps if that happened, the Steelers would have won the game. And perhaps they would have locked up a playoff spot. Perhaps Antonio Brown never hits that ‘last straw’ that sends him into psycho mode and forces his way out of town (or perhaps it was always and only about the pay raise, but I digress).
Either way, Haden isn’t thinking about the Butterfly Effect as it concerns the pass interference that wasn’t. He’s just thankful that the NFL put a mechanism in place this offseason to potential correct future errors.
During an appearance on the NFL Network, he said that he was behind the rule change allowing replay challenges for pass interference calls “1000 percent, just because it’s not a five- or 10-yard penalty. This is a spot-of-the-foul. That was a 40-yard gain on that fourth and one. So with those big-time plays, you’ve got to get those right”.
When the league announced the rule’s passing, they in fact pointed to the Steelers game as much as the NFC Championship Game that took most of the headlines, and looked at the win probability and how it changed with pass interference calls, demonstrating how critical they can be in a game.
“This is tough for me”, he said when recalling the play. “It’s just two dudes jockeying for position in the back of the end zone and it’s fourth and one, I’m covering a running back, so we’re just trying to locate the ball”.
Haden was in coverage on Alvin Kamara, and they were both standing in the shallow portion of the end zone (not the back) when the pass was delivered sailing over Haden’s head, who was further back. The cornerback had a hand on Kamara but did not push off, and the league informally acknowledged that it was a poor call.
“With the pass interference calls now, I can definitely see how you could be able to review it as just amazing because, this is a fourth and one, and they’re going to get the ball all the way down at the one-yard line”, he said. “That changes the whole dynamic of the game and everything that we had going on”.
But the Butterfly Effect is all about unintended consequences, and the truth is that we don’t know yet what all the consequences will be of enacting this rule change. Even if it results in a net negative, which I don’t suspect will be the case, however, the change was only approved on a trial basis for one year.