I’ve always said that the toughest call in all of sports is the block-charge in basketball.
After Sunday’s Lions-Cowboys NFC wild-card game, I might be changing my mind.
The NFL officially became a passing league in 2004. That’s when illegal contact was stressed heavily by the officials. Illegal contact simply means that defenders cannot touch a receiver five yards past the line of scrimmage.
As a result, four quarterbacks: Daunte Culpepper, Trent Green, Peyton Manning, Jake Plummer and Brett Favre eclipsed the 4,000-yard plateau. Only Green and Manning achieved the feat the previous season.
The results have only skyrocketed since. Eleven quarterbacks threw for over 4,000 yards this season, with Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger finishing just 58 yards shy of the 5,000-yard mark.
The call, non-call by Pete Morelli showed just how subjective pass interference is. Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens held Brandon Pettigrew’s jersey and proceeded to push and shove the Lions tight end down the field.
Morelli initially ruled pass interference and then decided to pick the flag up and erase the foul.
So where does that leave finely-tuned offenses that are being led by multi-million dollar quarterbacks?
In order to make officiating pass defenses less subjective, coaches should be allowed to challenge pass interference. All the playoff officiating crews are haphazardly assembled. They are coined as “all-star” teams but they are really just mixed teams and individual tendencies aren’t known by the crew going in.
While Morelli’s flip-flop didn’t lose the game for the Lions, it was still the biggest play of the game. Nobody talked about how Cowboys coach Jason Garrett switched gears at halftime and how Tony Romo was finally able to be a closer in the playoffs.
All the talk swirled around a call that was made, and then quickly not made.
And that’s because of TV. The NFL knows that the smallest problem is going to be magnified ten-fold because there are at least 20 network cameras that show things frame-by-frame. If the casual fan can see that something didn’t look right at home, why can’t the coaches throw a red flag and ask that it be looked at again?
The obvious argument is that doing so would make games turn into five-hour snoozefests. But if the challenge time is enforced properly, that shouldn’t be a problem.
The increased emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact that were instituted this season means that the passing game isn’t going anywhere. More passing records are going to fall, scores will continue to swell and the NFL will eat up all the offensive production.
In order to put a stamp on the whole thing and make the game more credible, it’s time to let coaches challenge pass interference plays. The technology is already in place, at least allow coaches a chance to utilize it in order to get the correct call.
It may not win or lose any games, but since most pass interference penalties are on typically deep throws, it will definitely will change the complexion of the game.
If the NFL is really all-in with more passing offenses, it’s time to let its officials give potential penalties a second look.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn