It certainly won’t matter much to the NFL Saints and their fans, but the league is ready to acknowledge that the referees in Sunday’s game with the Rams made a mistake.
According to a league source, the NFL intends to admit that the non-call at the end of regulation in the Rams-Saints NFC title game was indeed an error.
The league didn’t say anything about it during the AFC title game, in order to avoid overshadowing in any way the Chiefs-Patriots contest. But a public concession that a foul should have been called when Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis early is indeed coming.
Many are now questioning what the league will do to avoid similar situations in the future. With Saints coach Sean Payton on the Competition Committee, don’t be surprised if he lobbies aggressively for an overhaul of the replay system, up to and including de-centralizing the process and making all decisions from a booth at the site, similar to the college system.
But there may need to be more than this to avoid the non-calls as to both pass interference and unnecessary roughness. Neither are subject to replay review under current rules. To fix this, the NFL will need to break from the lingering concerns about excessive stoppages and commit to finding a way to get calls right and to fix mistakes efficiently and reliably.
What is a shame, especially for the Saints, is that it took a championship-deciding call to get the league’s attention. The league rarely takes proactive steps to prevent bad outcomes, waiting instead for the bad outcome to happen and then making a commitment to keep that specific bad outcome from happening again.
The NFL needs to look broadly at what caused Sunday’s bad call, and then ensure that clearly bad calls and non-calls always will be fixed.
What do you think the NFL will do?