The NFL Needs to Make Penalties Reviewable

Ever since football was created, referees have made controversial calls. It’s just part of the game. Sometimes they miss a call, sometimes they create a call that isn’t there, and sometimes it’s just a close call that could’ve gone either way. But this year, it seems that there’s more controversy than ever. It’s gotten to the point where these bad calls are costing teams games. During the regular season, it doesn’t seem to be as big a deal. The Steelers were called on a horrendous DPI call against the Saints and then didn’t have a false start called on the Chargers. Both those plays were huge momentum shifts in close games. Had just one of those gone the Steelers’ way, they could’ve been in the playoffs.

But this past weekend, these calls seem even bigger since they happened on football’s second biggest stage. We’ll start with the Patriots and Chiefs. Late in the game, the Patriots had a 3rd and 10 and were trailing by four. The pass fell incomplete, meaning the Patriots were likely going to punt. However, the Chiefs were called for roughing the passer. The replayed showed Chris Jones BARELY graze the front of Tom Brady’s facemask. Every could clearly see that it was not roughing the passer. Both announcers and ex-head of officiating Gene Steretore all commented on how horrendous the call was. Had that play been reviewable, it would’ve been overturned, and the Chiefs would’ve had a chance to score a touchdown to put the game away.

In the NFC championship game, the call was even worse. With under two minutes to go, the Saints had a 3rd down deep in Rams’ territory with the game tied. Drew Brees threw a pass outside to Tommylee Louis, who was leveled by Nickell Robey-Coleman. Everyone looked around for the flag but it never came. When looking at the replay, Robey-Coleman clearly leveled Louis well before the ball got there. Not only could pass interference have been called, but you could’ve also made a case for targeting. When asked after the game, Robey-Coleman even admitted that he committed DPI. Had that been called, the Saints would’ve had a first down at the 4 yard line. At that point, they could’ve basically run down the clock and kick a field goal with little to no time left, giving them a 23-20 win.

I understand that officials are going to make bad calls. Human error is part of the game. But these egregious errors that cost teams games are unacceptable. I’d rather games take a little longer because they are reviewing a penalty that have a game ruined by a bad call/no call. I would propose one of two things. Either give coaches three challenges per half, with the freedom to challenge anything, including penalties. Let them challenge whether or not a call should’ve been called or if it should be reversed. The other option would be to have two separate challenges. Give a coach two challenges for plays (like they already have) and two challenges for penalties. As long as they have timeouts, they can use either. And in each of these proposed scenarios, all penalties in the final two minutes would be automatically reviewed.

We have the technology to zoom in 500x from 15 different angles to see if a ball grazed a player’s thumb. It’s time that we use that technology to better the game and take out some of the human error that’s ruining it. An extra few minutes of time to make sure that calls are right is better than questioning whether the right team made it to the Super Bowl.

-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)

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