In the wake of a controversial missed pass interference call at the end of the NFC championship game, NFL owners passed a one-year fix to the problem March 26.
Offensive and defensive pass interference will now be reviewable, and non-calls can be challenged by coaches.
The latter change directly addresses what happened between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams in January when a key pass interference penalty should have clearly been called on the Rams late in the game. But the new rule could have some unintended consequences, according to the former vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, who has served as a rules analyst for Fox Sports since 2010.
"I really believe what this rule, the way it's written now, we are going to see the game change … in a negative way," Pereira said on
Glenn Clark Radio
March 28. "We will get what happened in New Orleans straightened out, but I think we're going to start looking at ticky-tack fouls and going away from the philosophy of what is or is not pass interference and use the literal wording of the rule to create situations that no one's going to like."
Pereira pointed to normal plays like desperation passes into the end zone at the end of games where contact is generally allowed. Would the rule change allow for coaches to challenge those plays leading to a penalty call that could change the outcome of games?
"I just see the unintended consequences of this rule change being pretty darn severe. … Did we really think through?" Pereira said. "You can go on and on about the scenarios which to me create nightmarish situations for both the replay official and the suits in New York that are going to ultimately have to make this decision."
Pereira said a better change would have been what the new professional football league, the American Alliance of Football, implemented in its inaugural season: a sky judge who reviews all plays in real time and takes the decision making out of the hands of the referee.
Pereira, who is also an officiating consultant, took credit for helping implement the sky judge in the AAF.
"[It] was kind of my doing putting the sky judge together and quite frankly when I am at games, I am the sky judge," he said. "We started it in the third week of the season and so I know that it works. I know how quickly things can be corrected."
"It's very simple: If something egregious is missed I am here to make sure it doesn't get missed," he added.
Other untended consequences of the new rule include increasing the number of stoppages for replay review during a game and putting even more responsibility on coaches to make decisions.
"When you have the normal stoppage that comes from the replay official looking at all scoring plays and all turnovers and now all two-point conversion attempts, combine those with what we might have on pass interference, you're going to look at five, six, seven stoppages a game," Pereira said. "Is that where we want to be?"
As for coaches, they already have too much responsibility when it comes to challenging plays.
"Why would the coach want to make the decision? Coaches originally didn't want the challenge system," he said, "because it forced them to make another decision and it risked the loss of a timeout."
One positive aspect of the new rule is that it is currently only a one-year trial, Pereira said, which could allow the league to make more adjustments in the future after some data has been collected.
Other NFL rule changes:
The kickoff rule implemented in 2018 is now permanent.
Last season, the NFL eliminated a running start for kickoff coverage teams and required eight of the 11 players on the return team to be with 15 yards of the ball. It also eliminated two-man wedge blocks among other changes to increase safety.
"It's a safer play," Pereira said, thanks to data showing a significant decrease in concussions on kickoffs.
All blindside blocks are banned.
A blindside block during any play will now draw a 15-yard penalty thanks to data that showed these kinds of plays were a leading cause of concussions.
"You either have to get in front and shield them off, which I don't know how that could possibly happen, or it has to be just a straight push," Pereira said. "So, they've taken that 'decleater' out of the game. That is pretty significant. I am for anything that makes the game somewhat safer and I thought that was a good change."
Rule proposals that failed:
Onside kick alternative
The Denver Broncos proposed an alternative in which a team would get a one-time option in the fourth quarter to elect to run a fourth-and-15 attempt from the 35-yard line instead of attempting an onside kick. The rules committee was in favor of the change, but the owners didn't agree, Pereira said.
The Kansas City Chiefs proposed granting both teams a possession in overtime. The Chiefs lost to the Patriots in overtime of the AFC championship game after New England won the toss and drove down the field to score a game-winning touchdown before Kansas City had a chance to get on the field. The proposal was tabled, which means it could be brought up for a vote in May.
"I'm always one of those advocates that wants to have sudden death in the game when it gets to overtime, and it's now limited to where you score a touchdown on the first drive," Pereira said. "Field goal, it extends the overtime. With that sudden death still in it, I think it's a good rule, but we'll see what happens in May."
For more from Pereira, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox