NFL Pass Interference Instant Replay Challenge Reviews Set Up To Fail

Instant Replay Works
Say it ain’t so ref because it wasn’t…

NFL pass interference (PI) instant replay challenges and reviews have been doomed to fail since it was reluctantly voted in for the 2019/20 season by the Competition Committee made up of some of the unquestioned, top football minds in the sport but certainly not proponents of advanced technology in the game, especially New York Giants owner, John Mara. The exception being Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints Head Coach who played the price for the lack of this rule in place when his team lost the NFC Championship game last year on an egregious PI no-call resulting in the LA Rams back-dooring into the Super Bowl here in Atlanta. Remember the word ‘egregious’ please because it’s important but is shouldn’t be. When was the last time you heard or used the lawyer talk word ‘egregious’, never? Clearly, the NFL is 0-2 with hiring the right Head of NFL Officiating after centralized-replay in New York was implemented for the 2018/19 season with gutless Al Riveron and insider Dean Blandino. Making the right hire is more complicated than meets the eye but the right solution in my minds eye. I believe this is the most important reason why the current PI system cannot succeed because “Yes, sir” employees are in place to review PI calls who unfortunately have to answer to the owner’s and committee’s agendas instead of calling what they and everyone else sees on the screen. The NFL held their owners meeting this week in Florida and poor refereeing topped the agenda. I want to be clear that in my educated and expert sports tech perspective, there is not too much tech in football rather, human errors from on-field officials to up in the replay booth in N.Y. are to blame for this fiasco but it might not be their fault because this system was doomed for failure from the get-go.

“You never want to see a game where people are talking about officials afterward,” said league commissioner and attorney Roger Goodell at the conclusion of the owners’ meetings on Wednesday. according the the WSJ. “It’s tough to be in that situation.”

Are the Competition Committee and Head of Officials a PI Review Scapegoat?

Realize, the NFL competition committee is a novel concept but nothing gets done that the 32 owners don’t want, nothing. After all, they make the billions and pay the bills. So are the competition committee and Riveron scapegoat’s for the current PI review debacle?  Yes and no.

Yes in that I believe NFL officials should be run as an independent entity, not owned and operated by the NFL. Until that happens, nothing will change in terms of a crony Head of Officials being too sacred to use their experience and judgement on video reviews that every fan in the world sees as well, to overturn non-egregious calls made on the field. I feel stupid as a fan when I watched calls week six that my non-techie, nor professional football knowledgeable Mom could have overturned but Riveron cowered in his cozy and warm booth in N.Y. and did nothing.

No in that it made me upset as a person when analyst and Hall of Famer, Troy Aikman, on Fox Sports used the term “egregious’ to defend Philadelphia Eagles Derek Barnett for a clearly intended helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay Packers, Jamaal Williams. Of course he did it on purpose Troy, who are you kidding. Riveron reviewed the penalty called on field and did not toss out Barnett from the TNF game in another cowardly decision during week four that culminated on Sunday in the ejection and suspension for the rest of the season of Oakland Raiders repeat offender, Vontaze Burfict, versus the Indianapolis Colts when he maliciously speared Jack Doyle. I believe if Riveron had done his job on Thursday when the whole league was watching the game, including Burfict, and tossed out Barnett as should of happened, perhaps Burfict would have taken notice and not done his evil deed. Perhaps not though as he likes to play dirty. This is just one of many examples of Riveron’s incompetence, not all regarding PI.

“We want to get the egregious ones, and we want to get them overturned,” said Rich McKay, the Falcons president and chair of the competition committee. Really, what about the clear and obvious PI reviews and unsportsmanlike hits that happened every weekend over the past six weeks that don’t meet the ‘egregious’ theory but do qualify for overturning if the Head of Officiating was not so worried about pleasing his scared bosses and ultimately, job security?

New Hires

Hiring the right person in a position is clearly the magic formula for success. On the opposite end of that coin, corporations and businesses often churn through hired candidates and fire them until the right one is finally in place.

Goodell, the son of a Senator and Ivy League graduate, has been the poster child for the right sports hire when it comes to the bottom line since he was placed in power, August of 2006. Yet, at the same time, his decision making regarding domestic violence is awful. What does that tell you?

LA Clippers owner Steve Balmer was borderline terrible as CEO of Microsoft mostly because of his arrogance and the facts that he missed out championing the internet and mobile devices while loyally sticking to an operating system (Windows) that can now be replaced by cloud-based services like Google docs for free. His replacement, Satya Nadella, guided the mislead company I grew up down the street from in Redmond into the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning enabling the software company to rise up once again. Rumor has they are going to go back into the phone space. Is that really a good idea, Nadella?

The NFL simply needs to move on from Riveron and try again, it’s just business. There are more qualified candidates to choose from.

Competition Committee Make-Up

The NFL Competition Committee began in 1968. Goodell selected the current membership. It has two owners, two club presidents, two general managers and three head coaches:

  • Rich McKay (chairman) – president, Atlanta Falcons 
  • John Mara – owner, New York Giants
  • Stephen Jones – owner, Dallas Cowboys
  • Mark Murphy – president, Green Bay Packers
  • Ozzie Newsome – general manager, Baltimore Ravens
  • Mike Tomlin – head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • John Elway – general manager, Denver Broncos
  • Sean Payton – head coach, New Orleans Saints
  • Ron Rivera – head coach, Carolina Panthers

Back in 2015, Mara said, “those cameras would be too expensive,”  with regards to placing fixed cameras on each sideline, as well as both goal lines and end lines in all 32 NFL stadiums to provide officials with more and improved replay angles. I still chuckle at that silly notion from a league consisting of 32 billionaire owners. New England Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick, the greatest coach in NFL history, said he was, “disappointed to hear that we can’t afford that as a league.” It is now 2019 and these affordable cameras are nowhere to be seen.

As I look at the make-up of the current committee members, the first thing I see is age which in technology is not so good. McKay is committee chairman and President of the Falcons that so far have been one of the worst teams in the league. He needs to worry about job security himself, eh. We all know Stephen Jones does nothing without consent from his Father, Jerry, owner of the Dallas Cowboys so he is a lame duck. Nothing really jumps out to me about Murphy, Newsome and Tomlin, nor Elway and Rivera that says tech-head. Elway turns 60 next year; Rivera is 57-years old while Tomlin is the youngest at 47 but as old school as it gets in Pittsburgh representing Steelers nation. I stand by my assertion that Payton is on an island when it comes to committee matters involving sports tech that require a vote.

Sports Techie, remember, NFL owners are trying to strong-arm the NFLPA into a new CBA one-year in advance (as they did with the NFL Referees Association last month with a seven year contract) because the amount of money in the billions lost should there be a lengthy players strike is really where their heart is, not paying for no-brainer cameras or hiring a competent Head of Officiating that is not afraid to make the right call. Any time off is not only money lost but takes away from the Shield and brand giving more public awareness to the rise of issues such as sports betting, CTE, lifetime health benefits for all NFL players, and a 17-game schedule put in place to make more money, not to lengthen the careers of the players.

Pass interference challenges and reviews were set up to fail by the Competition Committee, no doubt about it, but technology is not the reason scoring is lower, more flags are being thrown and fans are wondering why the refs are so bad. It’s because of human error, the wrong hires and NFL hierarchy, nothing more.

NFL, remember why you brought back instant replay in the first place when you dropped it because of old school mentality. The Phantom Touchdown should never have happened. Also, remember why you put PI reviews in as well, the worst non-call in the history of sports.

Keep tweaking PI reviews, that is what you do with technologies, having it in place is the right check and balance.

Oh, and stop saying egregious!

See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!

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