The NFL passed a rule change back in March that would allow pass interference penalties, both offensive and defensive, and whether called on the field or not, to be subject to review. The Competition Committee recently finalized the standards for the rule after much debate about further altering it, essentially leaving it intact as originally passed.
That’s good. But not everybody is so optimistic about how the rule as a whole is going to play out. Dean Blandino, who was the league’s head of officiating between his predecessor Mike Pereira and the current, Al Riveron, recently told Deadspin that he can see where it can go wrong.
“In my experience, I never thought creating a rule for one play—even as obvious as that play was, you can get bad rules that way”, Blandino said. The NFL made it pretty clear that the decision to pass this rule was very much in direct response to the non-call that helped change the outcome of the NFC Championship Game, though other examples were cited.
“Nobody wants to see that, and everybody wants to fix that”, he went on. “But I feel like, you create a rule to fix that play, and what we’re going to see is a whole bunch of other plays that are going to be impacted, and very few of the plays like what happened in the Rams-Saints game”.
That’s true, but we also know from recently history that very rarely does a new rule actually have the impact, especially after a full season or two, that it was expected, or even feared, to have. The league adjusts if it has to, even if it can never get it just perfectly. But there are no perfect rules that apply to every possible situation, at least I don’t think.
One issue that he did raise is the reality that every replay official, inside of the two-minute warning, is going to have a different standard by which to make the decision to call a play for a full booth review headed by Riveron.
Pass interference penalties are to be judged by a stricter standard that requires clear and obvious evidence of a penalty or non-penalty based only on the live broadcast and immediate replay angles. If they don’t have something immediately available that clearly shows a call on the field might be wrong, they are not to call for the review. But we know it won’t work so flawlessly.
As Blandino said, however, I don’t think “anybody knows exactly how this is going to play out until we start actually playing games”.
Remember last year when the new lowering the helmet rule was going to change the way the game is played—which was, in fact, its purpose? After a preseason full of penalties, it all changed during the regular season and we hardly saw it come up at all. Don’t expect to see many booth reviews of pass interference, either, I think.