NFL Roundtable: Should Pass Interference Be Reviewable

Penalties in the NFL have grown to the point of being ridiculous. Is it time coaches have more abilities when it comes to challenging certain calls on the field?

Question posed to the NFL Mocks staff: Should pass interference be reviewable/challengeable at a certain/any stage of a game? Are there other penalties that could also fall under this umbrella of reviewable calls?

Shawn Spencer: No, pass interference is a judgment call and the NFL should not slow down the game to review it.

Sayre Bedinger: Yes, it should be reviewable, as should offsides/false start penalties. Perhaps being able to challenge certain penalties will open up a can of worms, but the Seahawks won a game because of a poor judgment call. There have been many games decided late with penalties that should not have been called, drives that have been extended because of penalties that should not have been called.

Eric Robinson: Yes. It should. I’ve felt that way even before my Falcons were robbed. To rebuttal with Shawn, some of the calls made by officials are judgment calls. Helmet to helmet hits are a prime example and the league has placed an emphasis to view closely whether a player was hit in the head or not. We’ve seen too many mistakes by referees that has altered a game enough to warrant this type of action. The league has gone to great lengths to punish celebrating and provide a cover-up with strict protocols for the whole concussion epidemic but when it comes to fixing their own mistakes, the effort isn’t as strong.

Shawn: The difference is the helmet to helmet rule is clearly defined in the rule book. Pass interference however is up to the official to decide whether or not the receiver was impeded. You don’t want to get into a situation where holding is reviewed after every play.

Eric: I don’t see in the rule book where you can grab and hold a player’s arm

Shawn: I agree, but that’s a missed call not a judgment error. Can’t stop the game to review every play.

Eric: So if Julio caught it but it bounces off the ground, Seattle shouldn’t challenge?

Shawn: Inside two minutes, review would have been initiated by officials.

Eric: That doesn’t validate it. Lift that restriction and allow coaches to challenge. It won’t be a “challenge every play” type occasion. Just give teams opportunities to challenge calls and non-calls. If they add the amount of challenges to three then so be it.

Shawn: You’re getting into dangerous territory there. PI can be called twice as often as it is and holding occurs on every play. Some things you just have to leave up to the officials.

Eric: Whether or not a player had two feet in-bounds is left to the officials. Every call that is made is up to them. If an official awards a touchdown wrongfully, we can’t just say leave it up to them. Those type of instances should be corrected.

Shawn: Two feet inbound is currently reviewable and that’s something that has a clear rule. The judgment isn’t the interpretation of the rule, but rather if the WR actually got two feet in. There’s nothing that says exactly how much contact a defender can make before a flag should be called so the judgment is the opinion of each official.

Eric: Yeah. Rule F of the NFL rule book doesn’t state how much contact is permitted.

Shawn: It’s interpretation of the rule that’s the issue. Too much room for officials to vary on their definition of PI. Unless the rule is absolutely no contact, it’s not something that should be reviewable. Incidental contact and whether or not contact impeded the receiver are judgment calls.

Eric: So is helmet-to-helmet. It can LOOK as if a player is getting struck in the helmet but they are going to lengths to verify that. To save their face in regards to player safety. They can make a judgment call that a player gets hit in the helmet from 10-15 yards away. I guess they’re stopping the game too much in that manner too right? 70% of the calls they make are judgment calls. The initial ruling on fumbles are based on what they view is the right call. The players don’t have sensors on when body parts hit the ground. Yet, we want to get the change of possession correct.

Shawn: Helmet to helmet and being down are basically black and white. PI is up to the interpretation of the official. It’s not an opinion of being down or getting hit in the head. If replay doesn’t give a good angle, call stands. PI is up to the official to determine whether the infraction took place.

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Eric: As is a helmet to helmet call. It takes the official determining that a guy was hit in the head. There’s no formula applied. We can’t sit here and say that challenging PI is unnecessary because it’s a judgment call when you wouldn’t apply that same principle if a ref makes a terrible PI call and gives an offense an extra 15 or more yards. Rodgers-Cromartie was called for PI on this play wrongfully and the Ravens scored three plays later. A ref applied a wrongful judgement call and the Ravens got a cheap TD because of a 30-yard penalty. But you don’t want to get rid of mess like this for some reason.

The rule book has been altered so much that we don’t know what’s a catch, what’s pass interference and what’s not a hit. As long as the NFL prohibits make certain challenges, they will never clear and rectify these type of mistakes.

Rodney Stokes: Pass interference is a hard one because receivers and defensive backs constantly battle. I watch Terrelle Pryor push-off on and nudge DBs all the time and honestly most big receivers do it. If we start reviewing that then the game will get petty and slow, we’d have coaches throwing flags every other pass attempt. What should be reviewed are offsides calls as well as unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Too often does one guy get blamed in those situations when replay tells the full story. What happened in the Seahawks game was blatant but I don’t think we should turn PI’s into reviewable calls.

Eric: Hypothetically, if Malcolm Butler committed PI on Lockette in the Super Bowl and it wasn’t called, you would want a flag right? You would want some type of rectification right?

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) intercepts a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) intercepts a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rodney: Of course I wanted the flag, begged for it but I’ve wanted the flag on more than just one key play.

Eric: That’s my point. It’s not challenging every PI. It’s having the ability to challenge a play such as that in a key juncture of the game. Especially on 4th down with under a minute left.

George: Could the replay officials at the top of a stadium call down on a bluetooth and give them the call on something like offsides

Eric: Possibly. Yes. That can aid tremendously. You can challenge when the referee makes a poor call and reward a player a catch but you can’t challenge when a ref misses an opportunity at a key penalty such as the one on Sunday? I don’t get it

Sayre: We always notice it when it happens to our own team, but the Broncos were also bogusly called for offsides against the Falcons on an onside kick attempt that was successful. Those type of things have to be (able to be) corrected.

Eric: I’ve felt this way long before Sunday. What occurred on Sunday for Atlanta was just the cherry on top for me.

Sayre: Agreed

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