Nickell Robey-Coleman and Tommylee Lewis

USA Today

The Sean Payton Rule

Payton and his team got jammed two months ago and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

March 27, 2019 - 11:33 am
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I know everyone was hoping that the NFL meetings would be All Bob Kraft all the time, but they haven’t been. That doesn’t mean the story is going away, it just means there are other things to do. Like change the rules regarding reviewing pass interference calls.

For the 2019 season, offensive and defensive pass interference will be reviewable. As in, coaches will be able to challenge non-calls for pass interference. If they think their receiver was manhandled or their defensive back was shoved aside, they can throw a flag. Except for in the final two minutes of the first half or the game, when it’s only a booth review. 

The teams voted 31-1 to make the change with the lone team voting against it reportedly being the Cincinnati Bengals because, well, I have no idea.

And apparently, the impetus for the rule change came from a play in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship game. Did you hear about this play? A lot of you didn’t, so here it is. Roll it.

Yeah, I know. Pretty surprising, right? Really flew under the radar.

If you haven’t seen that before, what happened was Nickell Robey-Coleman nearly decapitated Tommy lee Lewis. He could’ve been called for about 15 different penalties on that play, he could’ve been lost under a pile of flags.

That was kind of a big deal. It was pass interference. Everyone knew it, including NRC who said after the game “Yes, I got there too early. I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown.”

But did you hear about this part? Wait for it. The officials didn’t call pass interference on that.

The only people on the planet who couldn’t see that was pass interference were the only ones paid to see that it was pass interference.

So it turns out if you blow a big enough call in a big enough moment, they’ll change the rules. And they did. And now we have the rule known as the Sean Payton Rule. Because he was the one leading the charge. And rightly so.

He and his team got jammed two months ago and they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. To them or anyone else.

Mike Tomlin was so fired up by Payton’s successful effort to change the rule that according to the New York Daily News, “Tomlin slapped him on the derriere after the owners approved the new rule.” You know it’s big if Tomlin is handing out derriere slaps.  He probably screamed STRAIGHT FIRED as he slapped that assssssss.

Payton said afterwards: “We’re trying to address the two fouls that most impact games. The last three years, coaches are being a little more judicious with their challenges. I think that will continue especially in the light of the fact that you now have a more meaningful play you can challenge. So, south of two minutes, it’s in replay (assistants’) hands. But north of two minutes, it’s in your hands. So, I think it won’t impact the way we watch a game. I just think there’s two more calls that we’ll work to get right.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like the change. They had to make the move and they had to change this and break with tradition. So I like the change, right now. I mean, it sounds great right now and it sounds like the league has made the right call when it comes to fixing the wrong calls.

But if there’s anything that anyone has learned about rule changes in the NFL, there is the law of unintended consequences and there’s a very good chance that something that sounds great in March is going to cause chaos in January. Just ask our old friend “The Catch Rule.” But that’s for another time and another place.

For right now, the league did they right thing. The league couldn’t not change. They had to do something. You couldn’t have fans sitting at home, some of who may have placed legal wagers on the game and don’t tell me that’s not part of this, without making that change.  And don’t think gambling isn’t a part of it is, because it is. Getting it right is the main thing: for the teams playing….and their fans.  And for those people who are getting down. Just saying. 

It’s impossible to see that play in the NFC Championship game and say, ah, that’s part of football. Gotta keep that human element in it; it’s a huge part of the game. No, it’s not.  Not if it’s changing the outcome of games. That happened in the conference title game.  What happens if it happens in the SUPER BOWL.  AND IT WILL. OR COULD IF A CHANGE ISN’T MADE.  IT’S NOT A QUESTION OF IF BUT A MATTER OF WHEN AND THAT WOULD BE AN ABSOLUTE CATASTROPNE. 

They had to make a change and they did. GOOD.