Get rid of coaches’ ability to challenge pass interference (or lack of) calls in the NFL. That’s the message that is starting to resonate across the league as coaches have come to a depressing conclusion. Refs don’t understand what pass interference is or when a flag should be thrown.
NFL Need To Pass On Interference
Leading up to the current NFL season, there had already been a lot of controversy over how refs were not being diligent enough in their responsibilities, but especially as they pertained to pass interference. The biggest, most glaringly obvious, most embarrassing missed call came when the New Orleans Saints were going up against the LA Rams for the NFC championship and lost their chance at a run on the Super Bowl because a ref couldn’t see blatant interference against Tommylee Lewis that happened just a few feet away.
In an attempt to right that wrong (which the league has never officially apologized for, by the way), the NFL instituted a rule change that allowed pass interference situations to be challenged by a coach. It started in the preseason and, despite having the ability to see on film whether or not interference had taken place after a challenge, the refs still cannot get things right.
That became blatantly obvious this past Monday. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants were in a heated NFL battle when Giants coach Pat Shurmur challenged a pass interference non-call against tight end Evan Engram. Even in live action, it was obvious that cornerback Chidobe Awuzie came in from behind early and slammed into Engram well ahead of the ball coming in. Seeing it on the replay should have only made the call that much easier to make.
But that didn’t happen. Upon further review, the (non) ruling on the field stood and the Giants lost a timeout. That was number 47 out of 52 that have not seen the challenge held up. The league is under 10% at overturning pass interference-related challenges this season and there seems to be a clear pattern developing.
Coaches have already begun to vocalize their concerns over the inability of refs to see what actually transpires on the field – perhaps the zebras just don’t really grasp the rules well enough. Out of everyone who has spoken out, Tony Dungy’s response to the refs’ inaction has probably been the most direct so far. The former NFL head coach and current analyst for NBC’s NFL coverage said on Twitter yesterday, “Please NFL do us a favor and don’t let coaches challenge any more Pass Interference calls. You’re causing teams to lose time outs, making your officiating department look inept, and making us fans feel stupid—like we don’t know the meaning of clear, obvious and significant!”
Jon Gruden, head coach of the Oakland Raiders, isn’t a fan of the things are playing out, either. He has tried to challenge pass interference situations this NFL season, including one in a game that saw the Raiders lose to the Green Bay Packers, and he has missed every time. He said recently, “I don’t understand the whole instant replay formula. I’m not going to get fined here today, but I don’t understand it, you know. I thought that’s pass interference. We got a guy upstairs that works for us that wore the white hat in the Super Bowl three times. He told me it’s pass interference.
Despite not having the pass interference called against his team in the NFL, even Packers head coach Matt LaFleur admits that the system has failed. Putting it simply, LaFleur states, “I really don’t know what pass interference is anymore, I’ll just leave it at that.”
And so will I.