CBS analysts Tony Romo and Boomer Esiason think teams will find way to use pass interference replay to their advantage
Bill Belichick won't waste any time figuring out the best way
The controversial no-call on Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman late in the NFC Championship game led to the NFL declaring pass interference -- whether called on the field or not -- reviewable by replay. That decision has caused an uproar on social media among fans who are concerned with how it will play out, but the analysts covering the game are confident the reaction will be much ado about nothing. Having said that, it won't surprise CBS analysts, Tony Romo or Boomer Esiason, if NFL coaches find a way to use this to their advantage.
"Some teams will continue to push the envelope to find out if there's a loophole, they can use it to their advantage," Esiason said. "If there's anybody who can figure that out, it's the guy (Bill Belichick) in New England. He's got Ernie Adams trying to figure out when are we throwing this (red flag), why should we throw this."
There will be added pressure on NFL teams who don't already have multiple assistants in the booth watching replays to find possible instances of pass interference (both offensive and defensive) that work in their favor to add these members to their staff. Belichick, or any other NFL head coach, could potentially test the limits of this new NFL rules wrinkle by opting to throw more passes downfield. The goal would be to put the pressure on NFL cornerbacks with more one-on-one and contested-catch situations.
"I think it's impossible to know right now, but I do think somebody will try and find a way to gain an advantage," Romo said. "You should. Everyone is trying to find a way, so it's no different for one team."
Although teams can theoretically gain an advantage, after obtaining more information from Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron, Romo is confident this change won't cause an uproar in how fans enjoy the game or the outcome on the field.
"I think it will be interesting to see," Romo said. "After having talked to Al Riveron and the NFL yesterday, I think I have a little bit better grasp of how I'm going to articulate it. Initially, there were assumptions I made and ways I thought you could gain advantages by opening this up. I think they've done a good job putting themselves in a position where this could be something that hopefully won't be that big of a deal."
After all, it's not like the NFL is making any changes to how often an NFL coach can challenge pass interference or any other infraction.
"Remember, they're not getting added challenges," Esiason said. "They still have to be judicious with that red flag."
NFL fans don't want a repeat of the blown call in the NFC Championship game and neither does the league. Former NFL official Gene Steratore provided a more in-depth analysis of why the NFL has decided to take advantage of what's available to them in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last January.
"Most importantly, the standard the NFL is to correct something that was so blatantly missed," Steratore said. "We have the technology to be able to implement something to correct that. The fear mechanism that is coming into this right now, prior to any of us actually living it, is that oh my there will be 100 challenges, are they going to stop the game all the time inside two minutes, and I think that's a knee jerk reaction. If we pull back and listen to the message the NFL is putting out, it is going to have to be clear and obvious."
Having said that, Steratore is well aware that the best NFL teams have already discussed a gameplan.
"Some of the teams already do have some of those types of people (in the booth)," Steratore said. "Any time there are new rules, the great teams are already looking at a strategy."
Over time, NFL fans could see a change in the game similar to when the NFL began to strictly enforce the illegal contact (within the first 5 yards) rule.
"As in any rule that has changed through the course of time, the game has changed," Steratore said. "When they put illegal contact in, the cornerbacks went to being smaller because there was no contact after five yards. The game does evolve in that way."
Ultimately, there needs to be clear and obvious evidence for the replay officials to overturn or implement a pass interference penalty that wasn't called on the field.
"They are not re-refeering these plays in a vacuum," Steratore said. They are going into the review process under the auspices that the call on the field is correct. If we watch that play, and in our living rooms go that doesn't look like that much, that's not going to get overturned. The standard remains that it must be clear and obvious."
NFL fans freaked out about the ruling to strictly enforce penalizing defensive players for lowering and leading with their helmet when attempting a tackle during the 2018 preseason. Once Week 1 of the 2018 regular season rolled through, this was no longer a topic of conversation and it never came up as an issue for fans, coaches, or players at all throughout the remainder of the year. Fans were quick to jump on the pass interference wrinkle after Week 1 of the preseason, but a similar scenario is likely to play out once the regular season arrives.
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