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Reviewable pass interference would not have changed outcome for Saints

Larry Brown Sports logo Larry Brown Sports 1/22/2019 Steve DelVecchio, Larry Brown Sports
a group of baseball players playing a football game © Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is facing tremendous pressure to make pass interference calls reviewable going forward after the way the New Orleans Saints were cheated out of a trip to the Super Bowl on Sunday, but the notion that such a change would have saved Sean Payton’s team from bad officiating is off-base.

While the NFL is reportedly exploring the possibility of making pass interference calls reviewable, many people do not realize that the new policy would not apply to non-calls. Judy Battista of NFL Network confirmed with a member of the NFL Competition Committee that there would not be much support for reviewing potential pass interference, holding or illegal contact penalties where no flag was thrown.

In other words, a bad pass interference call could be changed upon review, but teams could not ask officials to review a play that they believe should have resulted in a flag. That was the case when the officiating crew in the NFC Championship Game missed a blatant penalty that would have likely given the Saints the win.

However, it should be noted that the ability to review pass interference calls might influence whether or not an official throws a flag. Now that all turnovers are subject to review, we have seen officials hesitate more to blow the whistle or rule a possible fumble an incomplete pass, and part of the reason for that is that they know they have a chance to get the call right with review. If pass interference was reviewable, perhaps officials would be more likely to throw the flag — especially in such a crucial situation in a big game.

You can understand why the NFL would not want to give coaches the ability to review non-calls. Think of a player like Rob Gronkowski, who is held on almost every play. Do we really want to give Bill Belichick and other coaches an opportunity to throw the challenge flag any time they believe a player was held or interfered with? That doesn’t sound like an enjoyable way to watch a game.

No matter how angry the Saints’ owners are and how hard they rip the NFL for what happened, reviewing non-calls on judgment plays seems like a slippery slope the league does not want to venture down.

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