There are many within the football world who are hurt, shocked, appalled, or a combination of the three by the results of the recent NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints. The outcry has gotten so intense that many theorize that the NFL will officially look into expanding replay review… or maybe not.
In a play that will go down in NFL lore, Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman absolutely and indisputably interfered with a pass intended for Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. The play was not flagged, much to the shock of everyone watching, whether the audience, coaches, players—basically everyone but the referees themselves. Everyone knew it should’ve been flagged when it happened, with some crying foul after the fact when it aided in the Rams winning the game. A few experts have even called it the most blatant no-call in NFL history. The quality of referees in the NFL have almost always been questionable, but this may take the inadequate cake.
Since the outcome of the game, there have been many questions about expanding replay review to prevent this from happening again. Some wish to have it expanded so that coaches can challenge pass interference calls from referees. If you ask me, I think coaches should be allowed to challenge everything. A bad holding call, a bad P.I. call, a bad roughing-the-passer call—doesn’t matter. Coaches should be equipped to deal with the inadequacy of the referees. It’s simply come to that point.
To those aware of the NFL’s priorities (other than money), a major point of pushback with this involves potentially lengthening the game with constant challenges flying around. The NFL could always show fewer commercials, but that would interfere with their main priority. To combat this, I recommend a little more patience, yet relatively within the same present ruleset.
At the moment, coaches are allowed two challenges against the referees’ rulings upon the conclusion of certain plays, but not penalties. If they lose the challenge, they lose a timeout. If they win, they get the conclusion they wanted and keep the timeout. I propose we keep that relatively the same, except for a few quirks. Coaches should get three challenges rather than two (may as well keep with consistency), and the penalty remains the same. They should be allowed to challenge the call of anything the referees decide, whether a penalty, a bad spot for the ball, etc. But they only get to do this three times within the entirety of the game, so that they don’t get complete control and the game doesn’t stop every few minutes.
I also think the coaches’ challenge should be allowed within the two-minute warning, because not allowing it is dumb, especially in the more crucial parts of a game. Do we want the referees to have complete control during the two-minute warning?
In addition, there should be a video official to watch over anything that’s incredibly blatant or not called, such as the play that inspired this post (and a fucking lawsuit). So while the coaches can challenge anything that’s fringe or within the confines of human error on the field, a video official can make absolutely sure that anything that results in “HOW WAS THAT CALLED/NOT CALLED?!?!?!” is corrected. On paper, this all seems simple, however the execution could still prove worrisome.
In the end, everything is still up to the decision of the officials. One person (probably) would be responsible for officiating video replays, and that’s just one person. Whether coaches can challenge anything or not, it’s still up to the referees to correct it. In the heat of the moment, referees can make bad decisions, as all humans do. With some time to look it over, they can get it right, but they could also still get it wrong. One also has to consider just how interested the NFL is in getting things completely correct all the time. Drama is a very potent ingredient for human interaction, which leads to added attention. Negative attention or not, any attention is good attention. They’re likely annoyed by the lawsuit, but drama sells. Ask any major network channel. Or E!. Or VH1. Or the twenty daytime soaps on that span a billion years.
All I can really hope for is that the NFL does what it can to prevent the referees from deciding games. Yes, the Saints still could have won that game despite the horrid no-call. The mere existence of that no-call, however, creates the “What if?” scenario that may have made it easier for the team to win—perhaps they simply needed that touchdown drive. It’s happened many times in the past few years, but rarely in a game this important. As a fan of the game, it hurts to always have to question the things outside the control of those actually playing the game. That’s why I feel going for the extreme is really the only way to combat it. Until the referees can improve the efficiency of their job, teams need to be able to give themselves a fair shot.
For more posts like this, feel free to check out my full list of football opinion pieces!