“Outside the Pocket” is a column by Sam Arslanian about football.
Imagine instituting a rule to fix a blatant problem, rarely enforcing said rule and then killing it after just one season.
That rule will likely be the pass interference review.
The 2018 NFC Championship has gone down as one of the most infamous playoff games in recent memory: a no-call on a blatant pass interference that all but granted the Rams a ticket to the Super Bowl over the Saints.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell heard the outrage and pass interference calls and non-calls were made reviewable by challenge and by the booth within two minutes. Just a year later, it looks like the rule that was meant to restore order in officiating will go the way of today’s young basketball stars: one-and-done.
NFL Network's Judy Battista reported Tuesday that 21 teams were opposed to keeping the rule while eight teams are in favor of keeping it.
These numbers are non-binding and simply show that the NFL is leaning towards repealing the rule. Leaning towards this verdict is a backward decision-making process.
There are several reasons that teams want the rule repealed, the two largest being the lack of effect and inconsistency.
The Washington Post reported per an NFL survey that13 teams thought that Interference-related replay rulings made by the officiating department in New York changed from week to week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ head coach Bruce Arians is opposed to repealing the rule. At the NFL Combine, he made his stance very clear: “figure it out.”
“If anybody drinking beer at Buffalo Wild Wings knows that it's pass interference or not, then we should be able to do it in New York," Arians said.
The XFL has been around for three weeks, and it already has a better replay workflow than the NFL. The XFL officiating crew has one member that stays in the booth reviewing every play. On contested plays, fans can hear the officials’ discussion of the call on the broadcast.
This creates a faster, more transparent replay workflow.
NFL replay reviews are painfully long; the commentators have to guess what the officials are seeing and spectators are left in the dark about why a call was made one way or another. On the flip side, the XFL is dedicated to making every aspect of the game enjoyable, including replay reviews.
I’ve covered the XFL for three weeks now, and every XFL fan I have spoken to loves the replay review. Most cite transparency as the factor they appreciate the most. It brings the spectators closer to the game like they are actually a part of the process.
The 2001 XFL ushered in several key elements of how spectators view professional football, namely the skycam, so it's not unheard of for the NFL to closely watch and mimic alternative football leagues.
There were 101 pass interference reviews in 2019 — of those, just 24 were overturned. On top of that, no coach won a challenge on defensive pass interference.
I don’t understand repealing a rule that hardly had an effect on the game. The rule has a place in the NFL, but it needs to be enforced correctly.
To start, make it more transparent and make it faster. This doesn’t necessarily fix the issue of not overturning calls, but at least it keeps the fans out of the dark. From the speed perspective, fans want to watch football. Fans don’t want to watch the same replay from 19 different angles in super slow motion, they want to watch football.
Once again, it’s time for the NFL to learn from (or steal from) the XFL to improve its viewing experience.
“Outside the Pocket” runs every other Tuesday.