Report: NFL Owners to Consider Allowing Reviews on Roughing the Passer Penalties

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIMarch 3, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) hits Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (9) in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Barrett was called for roughing the passer on the play. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The NFL may vote on a new rule that makes roughing the passer a reviewable penalty at the league's annual governors meeting toward the end of March, according to NFL Network's Judy Battista. 

The league last attempted to expand its use of instant replay in 2019 to challenge pass interference calls. That experiment lasted one season before the NFL returned to making the play non-reviewable. 

It's unknown how likely governors are to add replay reviews to roughing the passer calls or if a final vote will be taken this year. 

Per NFL.com's Nick Shook:

"If our one-year dance with pass interference review taught us anything, it's we should hope that roughing the passer is better defined—or more aggressively reviewed—than pass interference was. The league encountered a stretch of about a half of a season in which pass interference replay reviews were overturned so infrequently, coaches simply stopped even considering throwing the red challenge flag on questionable plays. A second half with much more aggressive reviews brought things closer to even, but it was too little, too late.

"... Such a change to include replay would seemingly muddy the waters at first if pass interference replay is any indicator, but might also bring long-term clarity to a rule that has become significantly more nitpicked by officials since the aforementioned body-weight amendment. There have been more than a few questionable roughing calls (see: Browns vs. Jets in Week 16), and it might be helpful to the flow of the game to start getting these right, even if it takes an additional minute or two."

Shook further pointed to a roughing the passer call against the Detroit Lions last season that gave the Minnesota Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins a fresh set of downs on the goal line after being stopped on fourth-and-goal. A situation like that may warrant a challenge by a head coach. 

Quarterbacks have been more protected by roughing the passer rules since Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone during a tackle from Minnesota's Anthony Barr in 2017. The league changed the definition of roughing the passer to ban defenders from landing on top of a quarterback. 

A further change to replay could disrupt the flow of the game even more moving forward with more interruptions to review plays.