Zach Strief: Payton, Benson led NFL in the right direction

Zach Strief
April 02, 2019 - 10:08 am

     For the first time, in a long time, something came out of the NFL Owners Meetings that actually pleasantly surprised us.  Just a few months after professional officials missed one of the most blatant pass interference calls any fan will ever see, the NFL made a reactionary response to avoid the embarrassment caused by the NOLA No-Call.  In a 31-1 vote, the NFL owners approved a measure to add pass interference to the list of challengeable plays during next season.  The change in rules brought on a wealth of responses, mostly positive, but how the actual addition of pass interference to the instant replay system will play out remains to be seen.  I have my concerns.

     I played 12 years in the NFL.  I’ve seen calls, good and bad, go both for and against me.  It is a part of the game that you don’t necessarily like, but you learn to accept.  It was the way I felt for a long time.  It’s not how I felt after the NFC Championship game.  People can go on and on about how it’s a part of the game.  I was one of them for a long time.  Yet, there are moments in a season that aren’t just a game.  There are the biggest moments that effect history, legacy, and quite frankly, money.  Those are the factors that have changed my mind about the importance of getting these calls, in the biggest moments, right. 

I don’t know if Sean Payton’s chances of making it to the Hall of Fame would have changed dramatically with a 2nd trip to a Super Bowl, but I sure think that it would.  It certainly would with a win in that Super Bowl.  Drew Brees is a surefire 1st ballot hall-of-famer, but will he never be mentioned with the greatest ever, despite his resume, because he only won a single Super Bowl?  Most likely.  How about the financial impact?  I’m not talking about players.  Quite honestly, football players are highly underpaid for the biggest games of the year.  It’s the fans, who deserve the results of the season to be correct.  The financial impact to a city like New Orleans, that lives and breathes football, is massive.  I own a brewery.  Think we would have sold any beer?  Ultimately, the city that spends so much to support the NFL, was let down by a failure to apply its own rules correctly.  That’s a reality that the owners, appropriately, refused to allow to happen moving forward. 

     For weeks after the game, I spent time on the radio listening to various theories on how to fix the problem.  Things ranging from additional officials in the booth, to “the commissioner should be able to call the referee.”  Thankfully a more reasonable answer was hiding in plain sight.  The solution to simply add pass interference to the list of reviewable plays ensures you will not slow the game down.  After all, you have the same number of reviews still, you’re just using them for different penalties. 

I would make the argument, that we may even see a reduction in challenges as more coaches save their flags for a possible pass interference in big moments of the game.  If those never come, you may very well see more coaches walking off the field with the red flag still dangling from their pockets.  So, while Mike Brown has concerns of slowing the game down, I’m not really sure where that comes from.  Of course, being a Cincinnati native, this is far from the first time that Mike Brown said something that I disagree with.  If there are concerns in my opinion it is far more with how reviewing a judgment call will fundamentally change the outcomes of games in the wrong direction. 


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