PHOENIX — The NFL’s competition committee has introduced a new proposal for expanding replay that would allow some non-calls to be reviewed, a response to a nearly three-hour meeting Monday in which all 32 coaches expressed support for finding a way to correct clear and obvious officiating mistakes no matter how they happen.
Unlike a pair of proposals submitted last week, the new rule would have addressed the controversial failure of officials to call pass interference in the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Rams‘ 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game.
Saints coach Sean Payton arrived as the league’s annual media breakfast more than 15 minutes early Tuesday to continue advocating for replay expansion.
“People would say [to me], ‘Stop,'” Payton said. “But I’m not complaining at all. It’s just trying to think forward here. It’s what deductible are you comfortable with? [We] just got hit with this event. I don’t think it was good for anyone. Coaches met yesterday for 2 1/2 hours. It’s the best meeting I’ve been a part of in my 13 years.”
Payton and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, both members of the competition committee, led Monday’s coaches meeting. Owners are scheduled to debate replay Tuesday and tentatively have a vote scheduled for Wednesday morning. Support for any of the proposals is uncertain and, often, the league tables major rule changes until its spring meetings in May. But coaches were unanimous in their message.
“It’s was 32-0,” Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “Hopefully our voice will be heard.”
Some coaches differ on the details. Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he worries about frame-by-frame analysis of pass interference calls. But he joined others in suggesting that the existing replay official, who sits in the press box at stadiums, could alert referees to clear and obvious mistakes.
“I believe that the coaches were the right track,” Gruden said. “I believe that the replay official, his role could expand. I think he could be able to personally be able to beep down to the [referee] when there is an obvious or indisputable error. Maybe there are 13 guys on the field. You can’t give them a fifth down. Perhaps even the play that cost the Saints. … I do think that guy up there, without interrupting the game, can right an indisputable wrong. I believe that should happen.”
Payton took it a step further, saying that owners will one day arrive at a similar conclusion.
“It might not be this weekend,” Payton said. “Not today, but we’re going to have a point where this eighth official up is going to allow this game to flow. It’s going to allow it to flow, and he’s going to buzz that buzzer when he feels a certain level of a mistake has been made. … That’s going to happen.”
As the NFL grows closer in its embrace with sports gambling and live betting, Payton said, the league’s officiating will face a new level of scrutiny. If fans are frustrated by the potential for a slower pace of play, he said: “Times that by a million when they [bet] $4,000 on their phone and hit, ‘click’ with Caesar’s.
“And they hit ‘click,’ for a score here and the last drive, ‘click’ they hit all of those. And the last drive, and a call like that takes place and blurrrrr … there’s nothing in the account. I’m not even talking about the avid gambler. That’s not who they’re going for. All of a sudden, our children are going to have $20, $40 in it. …
“We’re not going to be perfect but certainly you have to appear like you’re trying to be.”
Meanwhile, owners made two expected votes Tuesday morning. They made permanent the 2018 changes to the kickoff rule, which had been made on a one-year trial basis. They also voted to eliminate all blindside blocks, not just those to the head or neck area, to increase safety on punts and other plays.