Broken Rules: Throwing the Flag on the NFL Officiating
Kyle T. Mosley
New Orleans Saints fans are not the only NFL fans disgusted with the inconsistent manner Al Riveron and his officials called football games in 2019. The officiating crews on the field have missed several critical penalties that impacted playoff seedings. The Saints fans can bemoan the 49ers vs. Seahawks Week 17 game. IIf they called the pass interference penalty towards the end of the game, and Seattle scored a touchdown, New Orleans would have had a first-round bye. Instead, the Saints hosted a pesky Minnesota Viking team in the NFC Wild Card round and loss 26-20 in OT.
It was that loss, besides the 2019 NFC Championship debacle from the NFL officials that has many a Saints faithful "losing faith" in the NFL for the upcoming years. In this Sunday's Wild Card game, Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph fully extended his arm to push-off against Saints DB P.J. Williams in the endzone. Rudolph's push provided him the space to catch the football pass from QB Kirk Cousins and win the contest for the Vikings. If they called the offensive pass interference, the Vikings would have lost 10 yards and the 3rd down play would have been more difficult for them to execute.
If New Orleans' defense would have stopped the Vikings offense, the Vikings would have attempted a field-goal and the Saints would have had an opportunity to either tie or score a touchdown to win the game. Hence, no OPI, no flag, another Saints season departs with heartbreak because of the NFL officials. Listen to Fox Sports Analyst, Mike Pereira's response on the Rich Eisen show regarding the Kyle Rudolph OPI:
The interesting observation from Pereira is that he believed OPI was committed by Rudolph. However, he did agree that Al Riveron, the Senior Vice president of Officiating, was consistent with his "replay ruling" from the entire season and was correct for not overturning the call on the field. Pereira still believed the call should have been flagged on the field during the game.
What's Next for the Saints and Officiating?
If I had to base Saints Head Coach Sean Payton's past two press conferences, don't expect to see the organization mounting a fervent defense against the NFL as they did after the 2019 NFC Championship game. A letter of protest came from New Orleans Saints owner, Gayle Benson, and many others which led to a rules change for a coach to have in-game challenges for and against pass interference calls. Unfortunately, the Saints will take this difficult loss, digest it, and change their roster for the 2020 regular season. New Orleans has 27 free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, that are on the current roster. Saints News Network's John Hendrix reported that the Saints must make early decisions on key players on the free-agent list.
New Orleans Saints fans have witnessed many devastating losses over the years, but one has to wonder if the team can make another Super Bowl run with the upcoming roster changes and Brees' career decision.
A better question is for the NFL. Will there be future changes to the pass interference rule and how the officiating crews handle the in-game and replay system? The NFL had two critical games impacted by their on-field and replay system inconsistencies. Can the NFL limit the officiating mistakes and keep fans and sponsors happy? Changes to the current model must occur. Remember these are important business decisions for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL owners, and the financial impact could be huge if these issues are not addressed this offseason.