It is absolutely rotten that the Saints’ season was ended at least in part by two blown pass interference calls, including an inexplicable one in the last two minutes. Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, who smashed Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis in the head while the ball was in the air, said of the play: “Oh, hell yeah. That was PI.” Al Riveron, the NFL head of officials, told the obvious truth to Saints coach Sean Payton after the game: the refs blew the call. (That was more than the actual game referee, Bill Vinovich, could muster, as he told the pool reporter that “I personally have not seen the play.”)
I would strongly prefer that the death of the 2018-19 Saints be entirely in vain, because the likely alternative is much, much worse. NFL logic means fighting the last war, which means that the competition committee—which includes Payton—will likely find Payton’s own reasoning irresistible. “I hope no other team has to lose a game the way we lost that one today,” Payton said.
No other team likely will, as it doesn’t make sense to have a world that contains replay but doesn’t take advantage of it to correct such obvious mistakes. Pass interference isn’t really any more subjective or judgment-based than a catch. The CFL has made PI reviewable for the last five years. And so something far worse than what happened to the Saints could happen to NFL fans: the byzantine nightmare of replay will expand, as it only can when it exists.
No one wants awful calls to dictate outcomes, but a few blown games are more than worth avoided a bloated and incomprehensible product. I like Emma Carmichael’s suggestion that refs should just get one look at one replay. That certainly would have fixed today’s Rams-Saints play. The only way to fix the NFL, though, is to take steps toward eliminating replay altogether.