Troy Vincent Says NFL 'Failed Miserably' with New Pass-Interference Rule in 2019

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints' Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The rule allowing coaches to challenge pass interference calls or no-calls came and went after one season, and NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent didn't mince words when talking about the experiment.

Vincent opened up about the pass-interference failure when discussing a Sky Judge proposal as part of Peter King's "Football Morning in America" column:

"We cannot fail this year. We saw, a year ago, when [the pass-interference rule] played out, starting with myself, what we put in place last year ... Those outcomes were not good for professional football. Because we didn't do the proper due diligence, it played out publicly. The last thing people should be talking about is the way the game is officiated. They [officials] should be faceless objects, managing and facilitating game flow. We failed. I'm first in line. I shared that [with league officials]. I failed, as the leader of that department. I failed. We cannot allow that to happen again. What did we learn from that? We've got to do our due diligence. You can't rush and just shove something in there without knowing all the consequences. And we found that out last year, live and in action, publicly. We didn't do [our due diligence] last year, and we failed, and we failed miserably."

The rule was put in place after an egregious missed call likely cost the New Orleans Saints an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl.

The Saints had the ball deep in Los Angeles Rams territory in the final minutes of the 2018 season's NFC Championship Game and likely could have run out the clock and kicked a winning field goal to end the game if Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was whistled for an obvious pass interference on Saints wideout Tommylee Lewis.

Instead, the penalty was not called and the Rams had enough time remaining for a field-goal drive of their own after New Orleans settled for a field goal. To make matters worse for the Saints, Los Angeles won in overtime.

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While the ability to review pass interference may have solved that isolated incident, it led to plenty of frustration during the 2019 campaign with officials largely confirming the subjective calls on the field.

Then-Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins tweeted "As a leader in the NFL, we need someone new in New York deciding calls" after officials missed a non-call on Baltimore Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey that was upheld upon replay review in a November loss to the Ravens

Kevin Seifert of ESPN suggested that play should be a "final warning" in a column saying, "Stop challenging pass interference, NFL coaches. Stop. No more. Don't fall for this charade any longer."

Seifert noted coaches had lost 32 of the 33 pass-interference challenges at that point, underscoring the primary issue.

With that as the backdrop, the pass-interference review rule was not even put up for a vote this offseason.

That Vincent's comments referenced the Sky Judge proposal is notable, as King pointed out "coaches have been overwhelmingly in favor of an extra set of eyes in the booth, to call down and alert the referee if the officials on the field missed an obvious foul, or called one obviously wrong—or to get a boundary or goal-line call right."

However, King talked to sources concerned with "unintended consequences," such as an extra official watching from that position that could find an infraction on 30 or 40 percent of plays. Such a situation would drag out games and lead to plenty of downtime and disinterested and frustrated fans.

"The concept of the eighth man in the booth has some merit," Vincent said. "But we just don't have the pipeline [of officials] today. Can we get there? Yes. But today, it could be a challenge."

King hypothesized that owners will likely approve experimenting with the Sky Judge in preseason games, something the Competition Committee has already approved.

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