I was among those who were in favor of a rule change that allowed teams to challenge calls of pass interference—or non-calls—during games. The league adopted this rule on a one-year trial basis and completely botched it. I still support the rule in theory, but the league has given reason to believe they are not prepared to execute it at the most fundamental level, which is getting the calls right.
Ordinarily, when a rule is put in place on a one-year trial basis, it is revisited the following year to be considered to be taken on permanently. And generally, rules that are installed temporarily are ones that the league plans to adopt, and ultimately does. The catch rule revisions that we saw a couple of years ago were also first installed on a one-year trial.
The league didn’t even revisit the topic at all this year, and Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II declared it dead yesterday after the latest owners meetings during which it was, yet again, not discussed at all.
“I guess you would say it was official today”, he said of the rule’s demise, according to Bob Labriola. “There really was no sentiment at any point this offseason, that I’m aware of, to bring it back. I think everybody concluded pretty quickly after the season that it was an experiment that didn’t work. I guess you could say it became official today when they didn’t even bring it up for a vote or for discussion”.
Recently, vice president of football operations Troy Vincent lambasted the league’s own efforts, not only with the execution of the rule itself once installed but with the installation process itself, in probably one of the more scathing self-evaluations I’ve seen from the league.
“We failed, and we failed miserably”, he said. “We cannot allow that to happen again. What did we learn from that? We’ve got to do our due diligence. You can’t rush and just shove something in there without knowing all the consequences. And we found that out last year, live and in action, publicly”.
Neither the owners nor the Competition Committee was very strongly in favor of the rule initially last year, but were pushed by the coaches who wanted to see this on the books. I still believe very strongly that they could have implemented and executed a much better version of this rule.
Unfortunately, the way they botched the job last year likely sets back the expansion of replay considerably, as detractors will now have this to point at and say, ‘look how bad this was’. The CFL, meanwhile, has had an effective rule in place similar to this with no controversy. The only essential part is actually getting the calls right, and they did indeed fail miserably at that.