What are we doing here?
The NFL’s new pass interference challenge rule caused a lot of handwringing when it was passed over the summer. People thought we’d have officials spending minutes scrutinizing the slightest bits of contact to determine whether it rose to the level of pass interference. Instead, they’ve mostly done nothing.
Very few of the calls challenged by NFL coaches have been reversed on replay review, even in cases that seemed glaringly obvious. The most egregious example of this was in last night’s Patriots-Giants game, when New England defensive back Jonathan Jones clearly grabbed Golden Tate by the arm. Giants coach Pat Shurmur threw the challenge flag and NFL head of officiating Al Riveron took a look at the play in New York. He decided he didn’t see pass interference either.
This is exactly the kind of play that the rule is designed to address. Jones interfered with Tate in a way that is no less egregious than how Nickell Robey-Coleman interfered with Tommylee Lewis on the play that inspired the rule change. Anybody with two eyes and more than five minutes of football experience can see that it should have been called pass interference.
And yet, not only did the officials on the field let Jones off the hook, Riveron—with the benefit of extra time and every camera angle—decided the play was clean. How does that happen?
“I thought I had a solid chance to get it,” Shurmur told reporters, “but we see that replay doesn’t overturn much. So, I am not surprised.”
The pattern of refusing to overturn calls led Yahoo’s Charles Robinson to speculate that officials are willfully ignoring the rule change.
“If anything, it’s a bigger problem than it was when the NFC title game mistake occurred,” Robinson wrote. “At least in that debacle, you didn’t know if the official meant to get the call wrong. What happened Thursday was clear. It was the wrong call once. Then it was the wrong call twice. And now the system looks like it’s broken. Or worse, corrupted by humans who can’t accept their own failure.”
That’s a strong take, and it says a lot about how the rule has been applied that it doesn’t seem out of the question.
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