Super Bowl-Robey-Coleman Threats Football

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints' Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game in New Orleans. Robey-Coleman says he received "one or two" death threats from frustrated New Orleans Saints fans on social media after the NFC championship game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) ORG XMIT: NYDD219

The proposals NFL owners will vote on this week wouldn't have changed the outcome of the New Orleans Saints' loss in the NFC championship game.

But it could prevent the league from similar embarrassing controversies in the future.

Expanding the use of instant replay will be one of the hot topics in Phoenix where team owners will convene Sunday through Wednesday for the NFL's annual league meeting.

"People have very passionate views on replay and how it affects the game," said Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons and chairman of the NFL's competition committee, on a Friday conference call with the media.

Two of the rules proposals this week involve reviewing pass interference calls. One rule proposes reviewing pass interference calls. The other proposal also allows for reviewing pass interference calls but includes roughing the passer and unnecessary contact against a defenseless passer.

The use of review on judgment calls like pass interference became the buzz of the season after the much talked-about play in the conference championship game between the Saints and the Rams.

A flag for pass interference should have been thrown on the fourth quarter play in which Rams' defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived. No flag was thrown. The Saints ended up settling for a field goal and then lost in overtime. NFL officials admitted immediately after the game to Saints coach Sean Payton that they missed the call. Since pass interference is considered a judgment call, the play wasn't reviewable.

"We'd like to not have the play that happened in the New Orleans play," Denver Broncos general manger John Elway said at the NFL combine in late February. "We are doing everything we can to try to eliminate those type plays."

Elway and Payton are two of eight members of the NFL's competition committee, responsible for reviewing all competitive aspects of the game and drafting the rules proposals for the annual meeting.

Payton talked about replay at the combine.

"By and large, there are a lot of people who support it," Payton said. "That being said, what kind of steps? There is always a checks and balance with any rule change. You want to make sure you're not in the start of the season saying 'holy how, we weren't thinking of this.' Most in our industry would like to continue to look at how we can improve the in-game calls being made correctly."

The proposals involving review of pass interference calls wouldn't have reversed the call in the Saints' game. The proposal would only review plays where an actual call was made. It wouldn't include "no-calls," which was the case in the Saints' game since the officials never threw a flag.  

NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent, who was also on Friday's conference call, said including "no calls" is something he feels the league wants to stay away from.  

"There has been a real reluctance of putting a foul on the field," Vincent said. "That is something that from active players to coaches all across the football personnel, there has been a real reluctance."

One of the problems, however, if the new rule is implemented is that referees could likely be more willing to throw a flag on any close place since they know replay could fix their mistakes.

Any rule change would require a two-thirds vote (24 of the 32 owners).

Vincent said getting 24 votes can be a challenge, especially on an issue like replay.

"Where do you start?" Vincent said. "What process, what proposal, what can you put on the floor that may garner 24 votes. As the committee analyzed hours and hours of discussion, what was put forward were two options that at least gives a minimum baseline of at least capturing what data says are the most impactful plays without putting a flag on the field."

Another proposal that will voted on involves the overtime rules. The proposal would allow both teams the opportunity to possess the ball at least one time in overtime, even if the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown. That proposal came from the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost in overtime to the New England in the AFC championship game after the Patriots scored a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime. The Chiefs ' proposal also would get rid of the coin toss in overtime. Instead, it would allow the team that won the pregame toss to decide if it wanted to kick or receive in overtime.

Vincent, a former player, doesn't seem to be a proponent of that possible rule change. He noted data going back to 2001.

"Eighty percent of the time, both teams touch the ball," Vincent said. "Putting on my old cap on, you have to play (defense). You have to stop the offense when the offense gets on the field."

One of the proposals that would lead to a more drastic rule change involves the onside kick. It's a rule that teams would be able to use once per game, only in the fourth quarter, if trailing in the game. Instead of lining up to try an onside kick, the team get the ball at its own 35-yard line and attempt a fourth and 15 play. If the team converts, it would keep the ball. If not, the opposing team would take over possession.

Other rule changes include one that reviews personal fouls and another that would make all plays subject to a coach's challenge.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.