Sixty-five days after the controversial “no-call” that most likely robbed the New Orleans Saints of a trip to Super Bowl LIII, the NFL has taken significant actions to address the issue. It was all thanks to the persistence of Saints’ head coach Sean Payton.
Last week, coach Payton led an eight-man competition committee (including Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett) at the NFL owner’s meeting in Phoenix, Arizona to once again address the officiating issue. He said to a crowd of reporters and NFL owners that “with all of the technology we have available to us, our fans are closer to the game. Our fans are way more tuned and educated as to the correct calls in the game, and we just need to be better.”
After Payton’s speech, all 32 NFL team owners voted 31-1 in favor of making a new rule that would correct errors like the missed pass interference call by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on former Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown was the only owner who voted against the new rule.
Starting this upcoming season, officials and coaches will be able to challenge called and non-called pass interference penalties. Like any other coach’s challenge, it can be called at any point in the game except for the final two minutes of each half. Within those final minutes, only referees will be able to review pass interference calls. This new rule was voted to be a one-year test trial.
Saints’ owner Gayle Benson had vowed to “aggressively pursue changes” in an open letter to the fans and the NFL in the wake of the NFC Championship Game. After the meetings in Arizona, she told USA Today “it could’ve happened to any of the 32 teams. It happened to us, but I wanted the rule to change. Going forward, it’ll be better for everybody.” This seems like a moral victory for Benson, Payton and the Who Dat Nation. However, not everyone is on board with the new rule.
On the national scale, many sports personalities on major networks are actually surprised by the outcome of the votes. Popular opinion is that this new rule would extend the time of the game, while the league’s goal is doing the opposite. On Fox Sports’ The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard and Rob Parker, Parker said “Why not take a look at obvious holding calls when a game-winning touchdown is thrown? If you go down this road, there will be another coach who loses on some sort of judgment call… make a stake like Sean Payton… and that penalty will be added too.”
On ProFootballTalk, Bengals owner Mike Brown says, “It’s remarkable to me that we have as many stoppages in the game as we do. I don’t want more of that… Instant replay is one of those… I am willing to accept the calls on the field. Sometimes are better than others. It’s part of the game.”
The opposing case is actually quite valid. Although Brown was the lone voice of the NFL owners, many believe this rule change will extend the NFL’s goal of keeping games under three hours. Roger Goodell asked the media, “Will this get us to perfect? It’s the old saying: Don’t let perfect get in the way of better; this is a very natural evolution and obviously a very positive thing.”
Only time will tell. This one-year experiment could extend games into people’s favorite television shows. However, it could save a team’s season in a way it could’ve saved the Saints back in January.