The NFL had two showcase games Sunday. Sadly, they ruined one with perhaps the mother of all bad calls. There’s a very easy solution to this.
The NFL should be celebrating today. The Saints and Rams played one of the best playoff games ever. The Patriots and Chiefs followed with a contest just as compelling, at least once the fourth quarter started. Both of these roller coasters went into overtime. And yet all anyone is talking about is a bad call. Well, not just a bad call. The mother of bad calls, the king of bad calls, the ne plus ultra of bad calls.
You know the play. With 1:49 left in a tie game, the Rams Nickell Robey-Coleman blew up the Saints TommyLee Lewis well before the ball was delivered. If you didn’t see the game, you’ve seen the highlight. If you have somehow escaped its ubiquitous presence on the interwebs, it was the worst non-call ever. That isn’t hyperbole; take a look at the play for yourself, courtesy of Fox Sports. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s just an 18-second clip.
More from Seattle Seahawks News
- 4 prospects Seahawks could reach for at No. 20 in 2023 NFL Draft
- Seattle Seahawks Mock Draft: Post-first wave of free agency
- Seahawks podcast: A review of the first week of free agency
- 4 experiments the Seattle Seahawks could cut short in 2023
- 3 pros and cons of Seattle Seahawks drafting Anthony Richardson
How this wasn’t called still amazes me, and virtually every football fan. As reported by Nate Davis for USA Today, even Robey-Coleman admitted after the game he was looking for the flag. The league office admitted to Saints coach Sean Payton that not only did the refs make a bad call by missing the pass interference, but they should have called a helmet to helmet penalty as well. John Breech for CBS Sports gave us Payton’s comments after the game:
"“Just getting off the phone with the league office. They blew the call,” Payton said following the loss. “Man, there were a lot of opportunities though, but that call puts it first-and-10 and we’d only need three plays. It’s a game-changing call. That’s where it’s at, so it’s disappointing. For a call like that not to be made, it’s just hard to swallow.”To make things worse, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, Al Riveron, actually admitted to Payton that there were a total of two missed penalties on the play.“[The league] said not only was it interference, but it was helmet-to-helmet,” Payton said. “There were two calls [the refs missed], they couldn’t believe it. We spoke initially, then I called to follow up and the first thing Al said when I got on the phone, ‘We messed it up.'”"
The easy solution to all the bad calls
Okay, now that you’re thoroughly stunned, how do we fix this mess? I haven’t read all of Mr. Breech’s article, so I don’t know what his solution is, but I know what I’d do. The first and simplest change is to allow coach’s challenges in the final two minutes of the game. It never made any sense that the league allows a team to dispute bad calls, but not at the most critical times.
The league is concerned that coach’s challenges slow the game down too much, that the team that is losing might challenge just to disrupt the other team’s momentum, or to give their players a couple extra minutes of rest. Seriously, how is that more important than ensuring the officials get the most critical calls right? No team is going to waste a challenge to slow down their opponent when they can simply tell a player to fake an injury. It’s done in nearly every game. It may not be right, but it’s a fact.
If the league is truly concerned that coaches would abuse the rule, increase the penalty if you lose the challenge. If you challenge a call and lose, not only do you lose a timeout, but the opponent gains 10 yards. Or you lose a down if on offense. If you’re on defense, the offense gets another down. Not replay the same down; they get the result of the play and the down. That may be extreme, but it’s better than seven blind men changing the outcome of a conference championship game. And just for the record, Lee Vowell predicted a Rams win and so did I, so this isn’t sour grapes.
A quick update: I just finished Breech’s article, and his solution is to make every play reviewable. I’m fine with that, but what if the replay officials are just as blind as the refs on the field? It’s a great start, but the coaches need to be able to challenge any call at any time. I’d even give them one extra challenge per half. Because the NFL officials certainly make their share of bad calls.