Refs stare at a flag

Pass Interference: Good or Bad in today’s game?

If you’re like me or most other fans of the NFL, you’re tired of seeing yellow laundry on the field every other play when watching your favorite team. The game has become one of “what now?” when it comes to penalties. There are a handful of offenses that can probably be done away with right now without argument from many, but one that might not seem so obvious is pass interference.

Stay with me, I’ll explain.

Consistency

When it comes to pass interference, the penalty is so wildly inconsistent between offense and defense, it’s like the two are completely separate parts of the rule book, but they’re not. Both offensive and defensive players can commit virtually the same infraction in the same way, but defensive players are apparently held to a higher standard. MUCH higher.

If a flag is thrown on the offense, it’s just 10 yards. However, defensive pass interference is a spot foul. The stiff punishment is indicative of the pass-happy, protect-the-offense league we live in today. The flag could conceivably be 50 yards or better. If you’re trying to at least maintain the appearance of equality in the game, the punishment has to fit the crime. This is taking the competition out of the passing game, not to mention making it a snoozefest to watch, just waiting for the next flag to stop the clock.

Refs

When it comes to referees in today’s NFL, so much more than just consistency is lacking. That’s putting it mildly. On the heels of a loss by the Saints due to a blatant pass interference not being called that may very well have cost New Orleans a trip to the next round of the playoffs, the league instituted coaches challenges for pass interference. Instead of doing the responsible thing and organizing both the refereeing and current rules in place, and considering how they affect the outcome of a game, they reacted to the backlash.

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Let’s face it, one less penalty in the rule book is one less thing the refs can screw up. I’m not taking away from their job, I know it’s gotta be difficult, but the less they have to watch for, the easier their job would be, right?

Passion

Does anyone remember how football was played in the 60s, 70s, and 80s? Do you know why it was so different? They actually let the teams play. You’ll notice a lot of announcers these days still referencing players hand-checking each other during a battle for the ball. When there’s a fair battle between receiver and defender, there’s no need for a foul. The rule is a rule just to have rules. If you think about it, was it ever REALLY a foul in the 70s or 80s? The good old days of bad boy football. Players were allowed to hit people and actually fight for the ball.

The current rule, as it’s practiced, has been standing since 1984. That rule only encompassed defensive pass interference, offensive PI wasn’t even considered and added as an infraction until 2005. The rules may have existed, but as with anything, they were used sparingly to allow players to just play the game. So the question remains: if the players are fighting to win this game, why not let them?

Another huge issue people have these days with the league is that it’s basically like ballet with a ball. Fans aren’t the only ones who want to get back to a physical game. Several players have spoken out about their inability to play the game as physically as they’d like and openly stated that they know the risks and are willing to assume those. The passion that watching or especially playing a good old-fashioned slobberknocker incites just can’t be replicated, and you can’t put it in a box like the rules are meant to do.

Come on, man

Given all of the negatives versus the few positives of this rule, why do we need it? Can a decent wide receiver really not win a battle for the ball against a great corner? Are we giving them enough credit for their talent or just hoping that this evens the playing field between mediocre and great players? Wouldn’t that also force a coaching staff to plan better for their opponents? Trying to justify matching your #2 wide receiver versus your opponent’s #1 cornerback may be more difficult if you don’t get the opportunity to draw a foul. Look at the Chargers most recent loss to the Broncos in Week 12.

“Following a bouncing kickoff and return, Denver took over at its 28-yard line with nine seconds to go. With the Chargers rushing four and playing deep, Lock fired long down the right sideline in the direction of Sutton and … “I thought it was a no-call,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “I thought the ball was uncatchable. I thought I was trying to find the ball myself. I think I have the same right to the ball that he do. But he made the call. We live with it.”

Hayward and Sutton collided as the pass sailed over their heads. Field judge Aaron Santi immediately threw his flag for defensive pass interference.

The NFL later confirmed the call via social media by explaining that Hayward had cut off Sutton’s path.”

Courtesy: LA Times

The only reason Drew Lock threw that ball was to draw that flag. If there was no call on it, he would’ve been ripped apart for a stupid play, but because there was a chance, he did it and it worked. Because all things considered, is Courtland Sutton a better receiver than Casey Hayward is a cornerback? I like Sutton’s emergence lately but no, that’s not even a discussion at the moment.

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So would Denver have revisited this call had they not been able to draw that flag? Undoubtedly. It’s an equalizer but how much does this really equalize? Rendering a team’s defensive backfield impotent isn’t what I call competition. Fans today want to see some hand fighting, body checking, maybe not a smack on the top of a quarterback’s head with his own helmet, but give me some good old blood, guts, snot, broken fingers, rub some dirt on it and get back out on the field.

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