NFL coaches scheming to 'weaponize' new pass interference challenge rule, report says

NFL Playoffs 2019: Pass-interference calls could become reviewable after Saints-Rams debacle

The NFL’s new rule allowing coaches to challenge pass interference penalties or even non-calls has seen mixed reviews since being instituted in March.

The rule, designed to prevent the type of officiating mistake that marred the outcome of the Saints-Rams NFC championship game, has its fans. But, as with any new rule comes the law of unintended consequences — where a “solution” to one problem creates another, possibly greater problem.

Consider this: Yahoo Sports reported Friday that coaches are exploring “techniques/plays aimed at drawing defensive pass interference.”

And sources told Yahoo “They assume every team will do the same.”

Bottom line, according to the report: The “NFL has totally weaponized pass interference.”

Such scheming would certainly violate the spirit of the PI challenge rule. The rule allows coaches to challenge offensive or defensive pass interference penalties or non-calls up until the two-minute warning of either half. Replay officials will be responsible for reviewing plays within the final two minutes and in overtime. Coaches will still have only two challenge flags for a game.

It doesn’t seem far-fetched that some coaches might look for ways to “game” the PI challenge. One criticism of the new rule is that reviewing plays in slow motion works to the advantage of the receiver. As four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman noted right after NFL owners approved the rule, “Every defendable pass looks like PI in slow motion.”

Saints head coach Sean Payton, who led the call for the rule change, doesn’t believe coaches will abuse it.

“I don’t think you’ll see more challenges, in fact I think you’ll see maybe less just because you’re going to want to hold on for a bigger call now than just an eight-yard gain,” Payton told reporters this week.

The good news is, the PI challenge is only in effect for the 2019 season. NFL owners will then decide whether to extend the rule, or a modified version, to the 2020 season and beyond.