As football fans, you want to see a competitive game; high-scoring, hard-hitting, and nail-biting contests that keep you tuned in. We all celebrate each win, regardless of how pretty or ugly it may have been, and we feel a sense of anger and frustration whenever our team loses. The latter especially holds true whenever there’s a questionable call (or lack thereof) from the referees on the field. If you were watching the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks last weekend, then you know where I’m going with this. On a crucial fourth down play, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman clearly grabbed onto Falcons receiver Julio Jones’ arm, impeding him from making a first down grab. And as we all know, there was no flag, resulting in a Seattle victory.
Based on this event, and countless others, there have been rumblings over the last two weeks that the NFL should make missed pass interference calls be reviewed. Outside of Falcons fans, one person who’s been vocal about making a change is New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. In an article posted by ESPN’s Mike Triplett, Payton was quoted as saying “That specific call is so critical to get right…And for good reason; I think the competition committee needs to spend a lot more time thinking about [it].” In the same article, Triplett pointed out that PI calls have been reviewed for the past three years in the CFL. Of course, Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn wants the competition committee to look into making interference calls up for replay during the upcoming offseason.
Here’s the thing, while football fans enjoy going to the games and/or watching them at home on TV, the last thing anyone wants is for the games to be held up for official review. Supposedly, officials can take up to a minute to review challenge plays and scoring plays. While I don’t have the numbers, I know that in years past it could take longer. Coaches are already limited to two challenges per game, and they have to choose when to toss the red flag wisely. Those instant replays are necessarily instant, and in a city like Tampa, with weather delays that can stall the game for an hour or more, fans are already impatient.
Let’s say that eventually the league will start to replay potentially missed interference calls; will it be at the ref’s discretion or will coaches be allowed to challenge this as well? Also, what about holding calls, facemasks, and the like? Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner didn’t get called on the play where he blocked a field goal last night, even though he made contact with the long-snapper while breaking through. If you review PI, you have to consider other penalties that happen, on both sides if the line.
Yes, Atlanta got hosed, and yes, referees are human and make mistakes. At the same time, The Falcons defense gave up 26 points to a Seattle offense with a banged up quarterback. Could they have won the game if the refs got it right? Maybe they would have at least made a field goal. But misses happen, and I’m not much of a revisionist. None of us are infallible, so while the jury is out on reviewing pass interference, perhaps the league should put more pressure on the officiating to get it right, and coaches shouldn’t absolve their players from failing to to their jobs on the field.