Stop challenging pass interference, NFL coaches. Stop. No more. Don't fall for this charade any longer.
It was clear to most of us weeks ago that the NFL had punted on enforcing its signature rule change this season. Rather than doing the hard work of establishing a standard for when to overturn pass interference calls and non-calls, the league has sabotaged the rule entirely.
The preposterous decision to uphold a no-call Sunday afternoon in Baltimore should be a final warning. To that point, coaches had lost 32 of their past 33 pass interference challenges, dating back to the start of Week 4. That's a 3.0% success rate. Since Week 3, they are 2-for-41 (4.9%). In an age when teams have access to all kinds of analytic probabilities, their coaches should now realize the chances of getting an overturn on pass interference -- no matter the severity of the contact -- are slim.
In a vacuum, no one would blame Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien for challenging the no-call on a deep end-zone pass to receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Whether you saw it live or on slow-motion replay, your eyes told you that Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey grabbed Hopkins with his left arm and forcefully twisted him away from the ball before it arrived.
This was not called pass interference against the Ravens, the Texans challenged, and the ruling was upheld. pic.twitter.com/DxmirlFJzM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 17, 2019
The definition of pass interference is to "significantly hinder" an opponent from making a play on the ball. I think we can agree Humphrey significantly hindered Hopkins by pulling him away from a ball that was close enough to nearly touch Hopkins' left hand.
Referee Alex Kemp's crew didn't throw a flag.
The NFL obviously now has a rule on its books allowing coaches to challenge and rectify such mistakes. When the rule was introduced, the standard for overturning was "clear and obvious evidence" of an act that significantly hinders an opponent.
But it's clear that the NFL decided against attempting to establish what that standard would look like. So it stopped trying altogether, a shameful abdication of the responsibility it took on when owners approved the rule in March. On Twitter, Hopkins said after Sunday's game: "As a leader in the NFL, we need someone new in New York deciding calls." O'Brien said postgame, "I have no idea what pass interference is anymore. No idea."
The NFL made the situation worse after the Hopkins play. Al Riveron, senior vice president of officiating, overturned two pass interference challenges, one in favor of the New York Jets and another in favor of the Arizona Cardinals. Each was a reasonable decision in its own right, but they only called further attention to the dozens of similar calls that have gone unchanged this season, including the one in the Texans-Ravens game earlier in the afternoon. They also gave coaches further, and likely unfounded, incentive to continue challenging pass interference calls.
And coaches are the unfortunate, and initially unwitting, victims through it all. They have been wasting timeouts and challenges for a good part of the season, hoping that the league would settle into a semi-predictable pattern.
But coaches should no longer be unwitting. They know the numbers. Through its actions, the NFL has begged coaches to stop challenging pass interference and putting the league in a position it can't handle. It's time for coaches to accept that and move on.