After refusing to explain what looked like a blatant bad call on Thursday, NFL officials have changed their stance.
The Washington Redskins lost a pass interference challenge on Thursday that appeared to be an obvious blown call on the field.
Officials flagged Washington receiver Kelvin Harmon for offensive pass interference on a play where Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Davontae Harris barreled through him as the ball arrived.
Offensive pass interference?
Not only did the play not appear to involve a penalty on Harmon, it looked like an obvious case of defensive pass interference.
This was called offensive pass interference on Harmon. Gruden has challenged. We'll see how that goes pic.twitter.com/RYFjZfPdKB— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) August 16, 2019
Washington head coach Jay Gruden challenged the call under the NFL’s new pass interference challenge rules, seeking a reversal of the call on the field.
After reviewing the play, officials upheld the call on the field, leaving Gruden miffed.
“All I know is I want Kelvin Harmon to do that every time the ball is in the air,” Gruden told reporters after the game. “That’s why we drafted him because he’s aggressive when the ball in the air.
“If he can’t do what he did in this game, then I don’t know what he can do.”
Officials refuse to explain call
NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron, who oversees pass interference challenge reviews, declined to provide an explanation for the apparent blown call with a pool reporter after the game.
“We’re not going to talk about what constituted it, because what happens here is the ruling on the field was offensive pass interference,” Riveron said.
It was an oddly curt response to a reasonable question over a new rule that all of football is focused on.
Officials attempt to clarify a day later
NFL officials decided on Friday to further explain the call and the replay review. Their explanation is that the the call was on contact at the 50-yard-line prior to the arrival of the ball that wasn’t seen on the TV broadcast.
Officials didn’t see evidence in the broadcast video to overturn the call, so the call on the field stood. Their explanation came with video of the flagged contact that wasn’t made available on Thursday.
In #CINvsWAS, the on-field officials called OPI for a push off by WAS 13 at the 50-yard line, well before he jumped to catch the ball. There was no clear & obvious visual evidence from the available broadcast video that the ruling was incorrect, so the on-field ruling stands. pic.twitter.com/EhdAqFOc9Q— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) August 16, 2019
The explanation noting that “there was no clear & obvious visual evidence from the available broadcast” implies that the video released Friday was not available to replay officials in real time, which is a problem if so.
Pass interference calls like this one happen when broadcast cameras aren’t trained on players involved before the ball arrives. These are the kind of growing pains skeptics critically anticipated when the league approved pass interference replay review.
If the league doesn’t learn and improve from moments like Thursday’s, those skeptics will likely be proven right.
In the meantime, waiting until the next day to address the issue isn’t a good look.
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