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The NFL’s new pass interference rule is a win for everyone

Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz weighs in on why this should be seen as a welcome change for both the league and the fans.

NFL: NFC Championship Game-Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Death, taxes, and complaining about new NFL rule changes. So predictable. The NFL, which rightfully gets blasted for being too rigid, decided to correct a flaw in its enforcement of pass interference penalties — and of course, social media went wild. So typical.

As usual, I’m here to be the voice of reason.

In a move that was necessary after the blown pass interference call at the end of the Saints-Rams NFC Championship Game, the NFL adopted a new rule change for the 2019 season. NFL coaches are now allowed to challenge both defensive and offensive pass interference calls, whether they are called on the field or not.

Within the final two minutes of each half, per the usual rules, a review for pass interference will be initiated by the replay official in the booth. The addition of being able to review a penalty for the first time doesn’t increase the amount of challenges for each team. They still get two each, with the chance to earn a third if the first challenge is successful.

This is an absolute home run for the league and its image of being slow to adapt to change.

Instead of opening up replay to review all types of penalties and judgment plays — which I’m strongly against for multiple reasons — it choose to narrowly focus on pass interference, which can have large swings of momentum in games.

I’m more pro-officials than most, because I realize they have a tough job and more often than not, they get the call right. But I also understand the game is being played so fast that it’s possible officials miss or incorrectly flag a pass interference call. Now, some of these can be fixed.

Notice how I use the word “some.” Social media will have you believing every single pass interference, called or not, will be subject to challenge. No it won’t. Remember, for 56 minutes of the game, coaches will only have two challenge opportunities. Being able to challenge pass interference calls is another strategic challenge, no pun intended, for coaches. Do you not challenge a turnover or a spot to save the challenge for a potential pass interference? I’m all for coaches having this new responsibility.

Now, inside of two minutes, there could be a spurt of booth reviews. However, I think this is a misguided notion as well. For starters, the replay official “reviews” each play in the booth before buzzing down. If the replay official believes there’s not evidence for a proper review, he won’t buzz down to stop the game. So, the same as it is now.

I also believe, as we’ve seen with previous examples, there might be a flurry of replay reviews for pass interference in the early part of the season, and then it will tapper off. Just as I wrote last season with the new helmet-to-helmet rule, there’s always an uptick in points of emphasis or rule changes early in the season, and then the NFL adjusts.

This will happen again. The bar will be high to overturn calls on the field because these are judgment calls on the field. Replay officials will understand this and not try to force overturns because this is a new rule.

Yeah, but what about Hail Marys and game length?

Yes, it’s possible we see replay officials buzz down to review Hail Marys, as we know there’s often grabbing and pushing on those plays. But again, there’s going to be a high bar for reviews. These plays are known for being more physical, and only if receivers get tackled do I believe these they might get reviewed.

The NFL might also instruct — and no chance it tells us this — review officials to ignore Hail Marys for possible reviews.

Lastly, oh my god, NFL games might be longer. *eye roll emoji*

NFL games are three hours long or a tad over three hours. I don’t get the constant bellyaching about the time of games. This might add a few minutes to the game. But wouldn’t you rather add two minutes to the game to get the call correct? I would.

The end goal of this rule is getting the proper call made on the field, which is something we should all be excited to see.