The missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship game is a “play that should be called” a penalty, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged Wednesday in Atlanta during his annual Super Bowl week press conference.
But, Goodell emphasized, “we also know our officials are human, we also know they are officiating a game that moves very quickly and must make snap decisions under difficult circumstances, and they are not going to get it right every time.”
That doesn’t mean the league isn’t going to look at solutions through its competition committee, which will meet again during March’s owners meetings that will be held in Phoenix. How much will change, however, is still in doubt.
“(We) try to make sure we can address whatever issues, but technology isn’t going to solve every issue,” Goodell said.
Goodell hadn’t previously addressed the blown call. Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman drilled Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis on a third down play with less than two minutes left, and a flag likely would’ve all but sealed a Saints victory. Instead, the Rams were able to drive for a game-tying field goal, and later claim a Super Bowl trip with an overtime victory.
He had called Saints coach Sean Payton and Saints owner Gayle Benson, and reiterated that Wednesday, saying he understood the frustration of the team, its players and its fans.
The competition committee will talk about potential changes when it meets. Goodell noted there have been a variety of replay changes/expansions discussed over the years, although none have really addressed judgement calls like the one missed in the NFC title game. The committee must not only look at solutions, but also consider “unintended consequences” of any potential solution.
ESPN reported Wednesday one idea being floated would be limited challenges for incorrect judgement calls, with a caveat of a either a penalty or time run off the clock should the challenge be denied.
Goodell also said an issue of the particular play in question is that it was a no-call and would’ve required someone to actually call a penalty after the fact.
“Our coaches and clubs have been very resistant and there has not been support to date for having a replay official or someone in New York throwing a flag when there is no flag,” Goodell said, later adding that while an eighth official will be explored once again, he didn’t think an extra official automatically will help.
“An eighth official is one more human, one more human who will make mistakes like the rest of us,” he said.
Included on the current eight-man competition committee, coincidentally, is Payton.
At one point last week, media outlets, pointing to a particular rule allowing the Commissioner broad powers, suggested Goodell had the power to force the NFC Championship game replayed from the point of the missed call. Goodell, reading the rule while discussing it Wednesday, was blunt in saying he did not have that authority.
“The rule is clear,” Goodell said. “That was not a consideration.”
Goodell said the league and owners will go through the process of exploring all avenues of correction, and he will live with the outcome – even if it means the status quo going into the 2019 season. Clearly, he’d like to avoid having the revisit the topic next year before the Super Bowl.
“We look at that every year, how we make sure our officiating is not a point of discussion, not with our fans, our clubs, our players or anybody else, once the game is completed,” Goodell said.
Images of Cardinals fans at State Farm Stadium last season