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Are NFL Officials Sabotaging the Pass Interference Challenge?

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 07: Referee Jerome Boger #23 announces the result of a review in the first half of the game between the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on October 07, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

When the NFL announced that pass interference calls would be made reviewable, coming off of the backlash of a no-call that cost the Saints a Super Bowl berth, fans breathed a sigh of relief.

During the preseason and throughout the first weeks, as numerous missed calls stood up after review, doubt crept in.

After last night, however, fans and pundits are hitting the panic button.

Late in the Giants-Patriots game (though long after the game had been decided), Patriots defensive back Jonathan Jones appeared to make contact with Giants wideout Golden Tate, but no flag was thrown. Even after Giants coach Pat Shurmur made a coach's challenge, the no-call was upheld.

It's been the same for every head coach throughout the season. Out of 31 pass interference challenge, officials have made only seven reversals, and this is not the first time the issue has come up this season.

Some have even begun to wonder if the high rate of non-calls - even when interference looks blatantly obvious - are a sign of the officials' resistance to the new coach's challenge for pass interference, and that by affirming so many of their own decisions even after replay proves them wrong, they will somehow be proven right. And given the absurdity of last night's non-call, that doesn't seem too out of the question.

It's hard to remember now, but seven years ago, the NFL trotted replacement referees onto the field because the regular officials were held out. It could be seriously argued that the refereeing situation is actually far worse than it was in the first weeks of 2012. At least we can say that those officials made improper calls out of ignorance and interminable pressure as opposed to sheer stubbornness and arrogance. Even the official who made the fateful "Fail Mary" call acted in good faith.

Actually, apart from the obvious labor disputes this would cause, replacement officials wouldn't sound like a bad idea right now.