Are you ready for more expansion of replay to preside over penalties? Because once again, it’s back on the table for discussion after the NFL tried and failed miserably to officiate pass interference penalties in a one-year experiment in 2019 that drew universal derision even from its most ardent initial supporters.
The impetus for putting the rule in place came from the 2018 NFC championship game in which a crucial non-call of a clear and obvious pass interference penalty more or less directly led to one team winning the game rather than the other. It was so dire that lawsuits were even filed, though of course nothing came of it.
This time, the league is hoping to have better luck re-legislating roughing the passer penalties, which in recent years have become an increasingly more conservative call. The rule book literally instructs officials to err on the side of a penalty if they are unsure if a penalty has been committed.
Essentially, it would operate under the same principles as the now-extinct pass interference review rule. A team may challenge a call of pass interference if called on the field, and may also throw a flag if they believe a pass interference penalty had been committed but not flagged. Just swap out ‘pass interference’ for ‘roughing the passer’ and there you have it.
The notion of the rule itself is, of course, not the problem, and it has the right intention. It’s the implementation that is critical, and the rollout of the pass interference review rule was a borderline disaster, speaking as somebody who was a strong advocate for the expansion of replay to include penalties.
The purpose of the rule as stated was to eliminate the obvious and egregious mistakes, but sometimes it failed to do even that, with the standard of overturning being excessively high, seemingly especially when it came to adding a penalty that had not been called.
I am not clear on what the league’s end game is here. Do they just want to get one replay rule governing penalties on the books and work out the kinks, possibly for consideration of eventual future expansion?
Of course, the reality is that we are still several stages away from this proposal even being put in front of a committee for a vote, let alone being approved, so it’s certainly not time to panic nor celebrate, whichever way you might lean, but it’s understandable for people to be apprehensive after the manner in which the pass interference review rule was handled.