After just over two months of NFL fans, coaches, and players calling for changes to the sphere of plays covered by instant replay, the Competition Committee has proposed making fouls for pass interference, roughing the passer, and hits on a defenseless player subject to review, the first proposal of its kind under the current replay system. While many may believe that this is a proposed fix to the no-call for defensive pass interference in last season’s NFC Championship Game, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay and executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent suggested in a news conference Friday morning that this is not necessarily the case. The Committee’s proposal only makes such plays reviewable if the ruling on the field was a foul.
McKay and Vincent iterated a recurring narrative that the Committee does not want a flag to be thrown in replay, especially when it comes to certain calls that fall in that covering official’s judgment. In the text of Proposals 6 and 6A, the latter of which includes roughing the passer and hits on a defenseless player in addition to pass interference, the added language to the list of reviewable plays states “fouls for” pass interference, as well as the other two fouls. This means that only the plays ruled as fouls are able to be challenged by a head coach or reviewed by the replay official.
While this proposed rule would not have changed the outcome of last season’s NFC Championship, it would have reversed a call from the AFC Championship. During the fourth quarter, Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones was flagged for roughing the passer by referee Clete Blakeman for contacting the head of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, although Jones barely grazed Brady’s facemask. Under Proposal 6A, Kansas City could have challenged that call, and it would have most likely been reversed, resulting in a third down for New England.
Another play that this proposed rule could not have corrected was a no-call for a facemask during the Week 16 game in Philadelphia between the Texans and Eagles, where Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was seemingly tackled by his facemask on a two-point conversion. Not only would this not be reviewable since no flag was thrown on the play, it is also non-reviewable since there was no pass interference, roughing the passer, or a hit on a defenseless player on the play. Even though this play and the Jones/Brady play above both involve contact to the facemask, only the Jones/Brady call is reviewable since there was a flag thrown on the play, and it was for roughing the passer as opposed to grabbing the facemask.
McKay also stated that the Committee does not support the implementation of a SkyJudge, as used in the Alliance of American Football. Although Troy Vincent said on NFL Network earlier this month that it may be time for a SkyJudge-like official to be brought in to the NFL, McKay announced that the Competition Committee unanimously rejected the creation of a SkyJudge position.