By Dan Durkin–
INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher doubles as the co-chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, a post he’s held since 2001. Given that history and familiarity, Fisher mentioned that he’s never received more proposals to look at expanding the parameters of instant replay.
“There’s a number of proposals this year,” Fisher said, “probably the largest number I can remember with respect to instant replay. A number of those proposals involve including penalties. So, that will all be discussed. We’re just scratching the surface on it now and we’ll look at it in detail. To comment at this point is going to be very premature. But obviously, that will probably be one of the major topics of discussion as we resume our meeting in Naples next week.”
Reviewing pass interference penalties will be on the docket, but the odds of any major changes to the current system prior to next season seem unlikely.
“You have two standards,” Fisher said. “To me, that’s the biggest concern with it. You have an on-the-field, full-speed, bang-bang call made by the official — we’ll just say pass interference — and then now you’re going to go to replay and you’re going to go frame by frame by frame to determine whether it is or not. I’m not so sure that’s where we want to go with our game right now.”
As thrilling as the playoffs were, they were tainted by controversy related officiating, from pass interference judgement calls to process of the catch to ball inflation. The sentiment around the league is things must be cleaned up to truly achieve a level playing surface.
“I got a sense that there was some frustration (from coaches he’s met with), but there always is,” Fisher said. “This is the time for them to vent. We have a general manager sub-committee as well and it’s a time for them to vent, ‘Hey put these two plays on, how come this was called and that wasn’t?’ So again, it’s the human element of the game. We recognize that.”
Recognizing there are issues is a first step, but where things get murky in Fisher’s mind is where lines are drawn. Expansion of replay does allow for technology to aide split-second decisions made by officials on the field, but where does it end?
“I’ll give you an example,” Fisher said. “Hits on defenseless players. What does that mean? That means the defenseless receiver, that also means the quarterback, that also means that your long snapper is defenseless, it also means that anybody covering a kick on a peel back block is a defenseless player. So where do you draw the line as far as that’s concerned? You can see how that can become very, very complicated. Then there are those who say, ‘We just want everything (to be review-able). Anything and everything.’”
Nonetheless, Fisher is optimistic that thoughtful discussions using data and video evidence to help clarify will produce positive change. He also appreciates the efforts and input from key officials in the league office.
“Since (vice president of officiating) Dean (Blandino) and (senior director of officials) Al (Riveron) took over, I think we’re on the right track,” Fisher said. “They’re working very hard and are very forthright with the calls either Sunday night or Monday morning, ‘Yeah, we made a mistake, we blew it. Or, I disagree with it, or whatever.’ That at least gives us a chance.”
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.