NASHVILLE – The executive director of the NFL Players’ Association said pass interference replay, which was introduced last season, “failed miserably.”
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel figured that out on his own, and not through trial and error.
Vrabel threw his replay challenge flag five times during the 2019 regular season. All five involved pass plays. None involved pass interference that was not called against one of his receivers or that was called against one of his pass defenders.
“I can promise you they’re not picking those [defensive pass interference flags] up,” Vrabel said last September. “They’re not going to. … It needs to be clear and obvious based on whatever replay [they see]. I think if you just look at the numbers, they’re not going to pick up a flag that was put on the ground.”
Others needed to be convinced but the final numbers proved he was correct.
There were 81 challenges that involved pass interference during the 2019 regular season, and 13 were reversed (16 percent). In an Oct 27 game at Nissan Stadium, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians challenged – unsuccessfully – a pass interference call against his defense.
For many, the only consistent element of the reviews was a desire to maintain the original call.
The opportunity to challenge pass interference calls (or non-calls) was implemented on a one-year trial basis. Last month, the competition committee did not present it to owners for a vote, which meant that it would not be part of the rules for 2020.
"We saw, a year ago, when [the pass interference rule] played out, starting with myself, what we put in place last year ... Those outcomes were not good for professional football," Troy Vincent, the NFLPA executive director, told NBC Sports' Peter King. "Because we didn't do the proper due diligence, it played out publicly. The last thing people should be talking about is the way the game is officiated. They [officials] should be faceless objects, managing and facilitating game flow."
One thing on which owners will vote when they meet this week is whether to adopt a “sky judge,” an official stationed in a booth with a video monitor. If approved, he or she will have the authority to overturn any obvious missed calls by the on-field crew.
Vrabel showed he had a pretty good sense of when they got it wrong. Of his five challenges last season, three resulted in reversals (two in one game). By comparison, Titans opponents won just one of three challenges.