Change comes slow to big corporate machines like the National Football League, but just when many feared that team owners might (once again) refuse to evolve how pass interference calls are handled they came together and did the right thing.
With the unlikely help of commissioner Roger Goodell, who, on the side of the coaches, implored owners to “make the big leap,” it was decided by a vote of 31-1 to make both offensive and defensive pass interference reviewable, including no-calls, to try and put an end to the potential credibility problem that was starting to arise.
Whether this will solve the problem remains to be seen, but at least it’s a step in the right direction and we take a glimpse into how and why the rules were finally changed as well as the odds and predictions of how Week 1 of the 2019 season will be affected.
So what was the big problem anyway?
Basically, NFL referees have been missing a lot of pass interference calls, where one player interferes with the other player’s ability to catch a pass.
In the past, this was forgiven and chalked up to the shortcomings of human error despite the fact that those types of plays happened often and majorly affected the outcomes of games.
But it’s the future now and a play review system is already in place in the NFL, so it would be easy to solve the problem, except for years the team owners have dragged their feet when it comes to changing any part of the delicate balance that holds together their profitable machine.
Was there a particular play that led to the pass interference rule changes?
There were quite a few missed pass interference calls this last season, but there’s one in particular that most fans point to that demonstrated exactly why a rule change was needed, and that’s the NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints, winner goes to the Super Bowl.
Here is how it went down: the game was tied at 20 in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left on the clock, the Saints had the ball on the Rams 13-yard line and it was third-and-ten.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees got a pass off intended for wide receiver Tommylee Lewis who looked to be able to catch the ball near the sidelines, but before the ball arrives, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman launches into the picture, delivering a fierce helmet-to-helmet hit that prevents Lewis from staying vertical, let alone from catching the incoming ball.
For more details about the play and how it impacted the 2018 postseason, check out our coverage here: Did Refs’ Big No-Call Cost New Orleans Saints the Super Bowl? and here: Are the Wrong Two Teams Playing in Super Bowl LIII?
How do rules like this one get changed in the NFL?
There is something called the Competition Committee that reviews all competitive aspects of the game, including (but not limited to) playing rules, roster regulations, technology, game-day operations, and player protection.
After gathering data and examining feedback received by all 32 franchises at the end of each season, the Competition Committee holds a meeting and before the NFL Scouting Combine takes place and prepares a report of its findings.
That report is presented at the annual NFL owners meeting, and if there are any issues at hand the 32 owners put them to a vote.
When were these pass interference rule changes decided on?
The rule changes were voted on at the annual league meetings that took place in Phoenix, Arizona between March 24-27.
The final vote was 31-1, with the Cincinnati Bengals being the only team to vote against.
The rule changes will go into effect for the 2019 season and then be reviewed afterward to determine their effectiveness.
Why were the pass interference rule changes finally agreed to?
It got to the point where owners could no longer ignore how much offensive and defensive pass interference bad- or no-calls were affecting the outcome of football games, not to mention the fact that a technological solution to the problem was already in place.
Saints head coach Sean McVay talked to the press about how the owners were there at their meeting trying to address the two fouls that most impact the game, regardless of what happened at the end of his team’s game (see above).
The President and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons Rich McKay also told the media at the owners meeting that there is data to back up the claim that missed or mistaken pass interference calls are the most impactful plays in the NFL.
“And that’s what replay was designed for,” McKay reminds the football world.
What took them so long to change the pass interference rules?
One of the main problems with allowing too many situations to be reviewable is that each one takes several minutes, and one of the main complaints about NFL broadcasts already is that they take too much time to watch compared to the amount of actual action that takes place.
And the fear is that the replay system could be expanded to the point where too many moments of the game are stopped, ruining the momentum and flow of the game, so for years any attempt to add more reviewable plays has been frowned upon by the league and a lot of the franchise owners.
But then check out what Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie just told the press after the owners finally agreed to change the rules:
“We just were able to accomplish something that I’ve hoped we could accomplish for years, which is to expand the replay system.”
Any chance for unintended consequences here?
Of course, whenever a rule is changed, unexpected results occur.
One scenario is that with the ability to challenge the other team on a pass interference call, there is now a chance that during the review the referee could see a missed call on both sides of the ball.
That would result in offsetting penalties and the play would have to be replayed from the same yard line, which may or may not benefit the challenge caller in the end.
What are the new changes that the owners decided on regarding pass interference reviews?
The team owners voted for major changes in the pass interference rules.
Obviously, these rules are very in depth and a lot more complicated in the NFL rulebook, but here we go over the basics to get a rough idea of the new changes that will take place.
Here are 5 aspects of the rule changes:
Both offensive and defensive pass interference will be reviewable.
This was important because many players and fans already feel like in the name of safety the rules are already stacked against the defense, so now neither side of the ball will be able to get away with interference.
Will apply to calls and non-calls
The non-call part of this is huge because in the past non-calls were never allowed to be challenged, even though (as proven in the NFC Championship game) they have a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game.
Coaches can challenge outside of final 2 minutes of each half and overtime
As always, in the final two minutes of each half, all critical plays are reviewable in the booth.
Replay official will initiate within final two minutes
If there are any reviewable plays in the final two minutes of each half, the replay official in the booth will stop play and initiate a replay review of any questionable calls.
The rule will be re-evaluated after 2019 season
After the 2019 season is over, the owners will review the data regarding the rule changes and make adjustments accordingly, a condition that helped everyone reach the final compromise.
What are the current odds and predictions on pass interference call overturns in 2019 Week 1?
There are two wagers that odds makers have placed odds on, and that’s whether there will be any pass interference calls overturned in the first game of Week 1 and the over/under for total Week 1 overturns.
Last season there were 237 total defensive pass interference (DPI) calls and 83 offensive pass interference (OPI) calls, which works out to be about 14 DPI and 5 OPI calls per game.
For those feeling lucky, here are the current odds listed for the above-mentioned two wagers in 2019. Bettors residing in New Jersey can wager at the 888Sport sportsbook.
Pass Interference Call Overturned Week 1 First Game
- Yes -150
- No +120
Pass Interference Calls Overturned Week 1 2019
- Over 8.5 Overturned -115
- Under 8.5 Overturned -115