It's been a little more than three weeks since the Saints' season ended against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game largely because of a blatant pass-interference penalty that went uncalled. Three weeks later, the missed no-call remains a story. It remains a story because on Monday, a letter that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards surfaced.
Responding to a letter that Edwards sent him in the immediate aftermath of the game, Goodell acknowledged the "disappointment and frustration" that Saints fans have felt and assured the governor that the league would look into making rule or procedural changes to prevent similar mistakes down the line, but he also wrote that he believes it would've been "wrong" for him to have stepped in to "overturn" the result of the game.
"I know that I speak for everyone in the NFL when I say that we treasure our relationship with New Orleans," Goodell wrote.
Roger Goodell penned a letter to the Governor of Louisiana regarding the no-call in the NFC Championship game:https://t.co/bYX4ObVMpM pic.twitter.com/rEMzylcjLc— 247Sports (@247Sports) February 11, 2019
"Though it is cold comfort to New Orleans Saints fans, I applaud the Commissioner's willingness to review the officiating error closely to determine if similar errors can be prevented in the future through rule or procedure changes," Edwards said in a statement. "I appreciate his response to my letter."
The letter, dated Feb. 6, was written two weeks after Edwards' wrote his letter to Goodell. The reason for the delayed response? Goodell says the letter arrived after he'd already left for the Super Bowl in Atlanta.
Edwards acknowledged in his letter that Goodell likely wouldn't intervene by changing the result of the game, but pushed the commissioner to seek rule changes this offseason -- as did Saints owner Gayle Benson.
"We will move past this game," Edwards wrote, "but we will not forget it."
Louisiana Governor, in letter to Roger Goodell, says fans will “move past this game, but we will not forget it.” pic.twitter.com/Vk9Z1aCNfW— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 23, 2019
This won't be the end of the story. Now that the offseason is here, the competition committee will likely explore any rule changes the league can make to prevent another debacle. In prior offseasons, the catch rule, the kickoff, and the helmet rule have been the main points of discussion. This offseason, the discourse figures to be dominated by instant replay and how it can be expanded or improved.
"We all want to get it right, right?" Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game. "We've got the technology where we can ... We've got plenty of technology to speed things up, and look, I'm on the competition committee so hopefully that provides a voice. But I hope no other team has to lose a game the way we lost that one today though."
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported that "there has been a renewed focus on technology and innovation in regards to replay and officiating." According to La Canfora, "it would be very surprising at this point if the NFL did not make some changes to how replay is conducted at this point."
Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that the NFL is expected to consider allowing coaches to challenge judgement calls on a limited basis. But two members of the competition committee, John Elway of the Broncos and Stephen Jones of the Cowboys, have already come out against making pass-interference (a judgement call) reviewable. It's worth noting that Payton is also a member of the competition committee, which has the power to propose rule changes.
In order for a rule change to be adopted, it must garner the support of at least 24 owners.