Cory’s Corner: Let coaches challenge pass interference

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- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


16 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: Let coaches challenge pass interference

  1. I agree with you. Unfortunately, the games are already too long thanks to the stupid ads between extra point/kickoff/ensuing possession. Not to mention a very long break at 2:00 left in each half and halftime itself. The only way this would be palatable would be for the NFL to instruct the networks to eliminate 1/3 of their ads. In other words – fuhgedaboudit 🙁

  2. I’m all for it, but when you talk about challenging PI, you’d have to add holding, block in the back, roughing the passer, hands to the face, basically everything where judgement comes into play would have to be fair game. Give each team 3 challenges per half, use ’em or lose ’em, but keep the TO penalty if you’re wrong.

    But here’s the question – If any given game has N amount of commercial time, what’s the difference if it’s used during challenges, or the irritating stop/start/stop/start/stop Bearmeat references? Or would the NFL whore up and just add all those extra commercials.

  3. Today the NFL announced that they also missed a blatant holding call by Dallas against Suh. The hold took place on the Dallas 4th and 6 play with about 6 minutes to go in the game. Dallas made the 1st down and eventually scored on the drive. I have no love for the Lions but it is unacceptable to me that the Lions or any team should have their season erased because of incompetent officiating or in the worst possible case, fixing the games. The play, had the holding penalty been called, would have resulted in a 4th and 16 and a punt by the Cowboys with less then 6 minutes to play. If not for the hold Suh would have a sack and Detroit would take over on downs. When you combine this missed call with the flag pick up on the PI, we need to stop and ask ourselves why is this happening? The league has apologized again to the Lions and their fans but their season is still over. We have reached the point with our upcoming game with Dallas where we will be wondering about every flag and every missed call, rather than just focusing on the plays and players. Given the amounts of money involved and the decision making record of this league regarding money, since 2008 especially, I would not be surprised by anything that happens any longer. On top of the league’s unquenchable thirst for money we have Jerry Jones with his billions and his pathetic desperation for the Cowboys to win. I’m not sure, that no matter how well the Packers play, they can overcome those 2 possible factors. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Since 61, I know where you are going but don’t want to say it. I will. The NFL does not want a chocolate city in the super bowl. There’s no money if Detroit goes. I feel bad for them yes they got screwed by powers behind the scenes. The refs were probably told with a wink and a nod to do whatever it takes to get Dallas past Detroit. They no doubt obliged in my professional opinion.
      I think the NFL set this up great. Everyone wants to see Dallas and Green Bay vs. Green Bay and Carolina. I do too the more I think about it. It’s unfortunate they had to cheat to get the results but millions are at stake and that’s what this is all about Since 61. It’s ALWAYS about the money. The NFL set this up great. You now have 4 predominantly white cities in the NFC vying to get to a super bowl. I think you’ll see refs calling it fair from this point forward as they will be happy as hell with either Sea, GB or Dal in the super bowl.
      What I don’t want to see at Lambeau is fat f k gov. Chris Christie in the booth with Jerry Jones. I hope Scott Walker intervenes and bans him. The last thing I want to see ever again is Christie and Jones hugging.

      1. I agree with Since ’61 and I have to tell you Ted if you are right this game last Sunday in Dallas will be the start of the end of football you know and love…
        We saw that in our country with several sports (soccer, basketball, handball, hockey ….).
        At the moment when someone starts to think he can be smarter than life, that moment is his/her end… I hope that you are wrong in claim that somebody wink and nod to the referees. It is horible thought (but I know it is possible!)…
        I was basketball referee 20 years ago and have similar nods and winks and refuse to “understand” it. That is why I was never in the position to officating any, even low meaningful, game. And that was the reason I left officiating.
        Also, I can tell you that referee can have bad, very bad day when everything what you decide is wrong, sometimes against one team more than against other. But, without any second tought….
        We will see soon enough what is going on by the type of officiating that will be in the rest of play off.

        1. I agree. I just hope they pick the Packers to win Croat. GB and Dal in the super bowl are both huge ratings for the NFL. You can’t go wrong with either of them. You can go wrong with Det. or Carolina.

      2. Ted – while I agree that it is always about the money I don’t agree that anything was necessarily directed at Detroit because of the population of the city. What I was trying to say (which I didn’t make clear enough) is that the NFL has 1 of 2 problems or maybe both. The first problem is a perception of lack of integrity. This is based on inconsistent decisions about players’ behavior off the field. Since 2005 there have been over 700 arrests of NFL players( I think that the actual number is about 740). It’s not 700+ different players because some have been arrested multiple times. In any case is this a professional sports league or a street gang? Finally, this year after the Ray Rice and AP incidents the league is allegedly establishing consistent guidelines about suspensions etc… But too many players have been allowed to stay on the field after criminal activities. Why? TV ratings? Rich owners and bags of cash? Other reasons? We’ll probably never know. Second problem, is that the NFL officiating has made the games unwatchable or in some cases like Detroit/Dallas ruined the game. The officials are trying flags all over the place for questionable holds and push offs but they pick up a flag for an obvious PI, ridiculous. What happened to player safety on that play? Then they miss the blatant hold on Suh when so many questionable holds are called. You couple this with the unabated and unending money grabs, like Thursday night football, and you have to question what is going on. Is Jerry Jones throwing bags of cash around? Is the league trying to keep Dallas alive for TV ratings?
        Will our Packers be the next victim of “bad officiating”, or maybe the Panthers or the Ravens? When or what does the league do to regain some credibility? I don’t care if the games are a few minutes longer if they are officiated properly and fairly. What’s the point of having rules and referees if the games are not going to be called per the rules? Why play the games if the league can’t get the calls correct? I can accept human error, what I can’t accept is that in this age of technology nothing is done to reduce it or assist the human officials. As for the money grabs and player behavior time will tell but unfortunately, I believe that it will get worse before it gets better. Thanks, Since ’61

        1. I know Since 61, the NFL better get their shit straight with those things you and others have mentioned. As we can all agree on, this GB/Dal game and how it’s called will answer a lot of our questions.

  4. Sorry, I can’t stand to sit and watch most games and I am not going to wait through commercial upon commercial while they come back with a ‘support the call on the field’ verdict. How about we:

    1. Simplify the rule book
    2. Hire and train full-time officials
    3. Grade, correct and replace poor officials
    4. Stop running the league out of a boardroom

    Challenges will just drag the game out and turn the games into bigger circuses

    1. Razer – agree! However, the bigger the circus the bigger the money, for the league anyway.
      Thanks, Since ’61

    2. I record the Packer games and watch later and skip thru the stupid commercials. I could care less if I watch live. Super Bowl is different as commercials better.

  5. I think your suggestion is basically unworkable. The end result would be that every big play would be likely to be challenged. The only solution (but it would only mitigate rather than solve the problem) is to have full time referees. Would you allow a challenge where a penalty is not called? Do you remember Frank Winters in his last year? He had lost his skills, and just held more plays than not. Do you remember holding your breath on every 3rd down stop waiting to see if the refs were going to call Woodson for a hold? The Dallas/Detroit game was really bad. Dallas’ LT Smith held Ansay play after play, repeatedly, and blatantly. Their RT also held early and often, as did RG Leary. All that the NFL can really do is put a highly trained and professional group of referees in place. The NFL must make sure that their referees do not get the reputation that NBA referees have gotten.

  6. Last thing the NFL needs to do is try to make it perfect. To do so, you just add more cumbersome process. Forget it. Refs are human, and make judgments, and some are in erro. That is life, and that is sports. Look closely at soccer if you want to see multiple mis-judged calls every game. It isn’t going to be perfect, and it all evens out. NFL refs are pretty darn good, and generally keep a pretty consistent approach.
    So I’m sorry for the lions, but no crying for them. The refs didn’t hand the game to cowboys just because they made a mistake. Football fans, quit whining, and go watch soccer for a while.

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