The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Too Much Pass Interference

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The NFL has talked about changing the defensive pass interference rule to match the NCAA's 15-yard penalty, and I think it's a reasonable proposal. In the current game, with receiver-favorable contact rules, and a very iffy swing from crew to crew as to who calls what, it makes sense to make a penalty which can give an offense the entire field a little less arbitrary.

First, the current rule. If a defender has been deemed to have interfered with a receiver, the ball is placed at the spot of the foul, or at the one-yard line if it happens in the end zone. Period, end of story. That means that if you want to aim for a call 50 yards downfield, just hurl the ball on a bomb and see what happens. Of the 156 defensive pass interference calls that weren't declined or offsetting last season, 24 cost the defending team 30 yards or more. And when you've got one guy's crew (Carl Cheffers) calling 17 DPIs in the regular season, and another's (Terry McAulay) with eight, and each crew worked 15 regular-season games -- well, one thing or another needs to happen. Either the penalty needs to become more in line with the actual act, or there needs to be more consistency from crew to crew in the penalties they call.

Since the second option seems to be an impossibility, let's target the penalty length itself. Why not just have the college rule, where the penalty for DPI is either 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, or a spot foul for plays that are less than 15 yards? The Kansas City Chiefs put this proposal up at the 2005 Owner's Meetings, and it's been discussed since, but there's been no traction on it.

There is no way that officials are going to get every call right, especially downfield calls that occur at a high rate of speed and with multiple players involved. And when you consider that the average penalty length for DPI in 2008 was 16.2 yards anyway, and it would make more sense to install that rule as opposed to the 52-yarder against Pittsburgh's Nate Webster in Week 17, or the 43-yarders that came against New Orleans' Roman Harper, Washington's Carlos Rogers, and Minnesota's Will Allen through the 2008 season. When half the crews in the NFL don't seem to be able to call pass interference consistently, and differentiate it from a five-yard illegal contact call, reducing the possible fallout from the pass interference penalty would seem to make a great deal of sense.

By Doug Farrar  |  May 11, 2009; 12:10 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Why not just have Pass Interference become a reviewable play? The argument has been that it is a judgment call by the refs. But why can't a coach say, "I want you to take a second look in slow motion to see if you really saw what you thought you saw, and I'm willing to risk a TO on it." I think many of these flags would've been picked up if the refs could have seen the replay. I think this would be better than limiting it to 15 yards because if a defender is beat he will just try to tackle the receiver before the ball gets there to prevent the long gain.

Posted by: octopi213 | May 12, 2009 10:16 AM

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