That replay review would be expanded to include pass interference ahead of the 2019-2020 NFL season seemed inevitable. The question, then, was whether it would be expanded in such a way that it could hope to address the kind of situation that befouled the NFC Championship game in January, when the Saints were screwed out of an obvious pass interference call that would’ve given them first-and-goal with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter of a tied game that they would go on to lose. Turns out, for a one-season trial, owners were comfortable going the whole way:
Giving coaches the option of throwing their challenge flag on Hail Mary finishes and other assorted dramatic final plays creates a situation where calling for an official replay on a game-deciding play is a no-lose proposition for coaches, who might as well let the red flag fly on the off chance that something is spotted in slow motion that was undetectable in realtime. Owners shut that unintended drama-killing consequence down by making plays in the final two minutes reviewable by the booth only, and not subject to coach’s flags:
Pass interference calls and non-calls are among the most consequential decisions made by NFL referees, but they are also largely subjective in a sport where virtually every route in the tree involves some amount of mutual mauling between receivers and defensive backs. A booth review presumably would’ve caught Nickell Robey-Coleman smashing the bejeezus out of Tommylee Lewis, but how long will it be before another non-call of that magnitude comes along and redeems the decision to bring replay to one of the least cut-and-dry areas of football?
For now it’s just a one-year trial, but Saints owner Gail Benson is reportedly already hailing it as a safeguard against such a play ever happening again. NFL owners overwhelming supported the measure, with the Bengals reportedly the only team that voted against the proposal.