ATLANTA (CBSLA) – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally made his first public comments Wednesday regarding the missed pass interference call late in the NFC title game between the Los Angeles Rams and The New Orleans Saints which sparked an outcry in the football world.
“We understand the frustration of the fans…we understand the frustration that they feel right now and we certainly want to address that,” Goodell said.
Goodell admitted that a flag should have been thrown.
“(Saints) Coach (Sean) Payton spoke to Al Riveron, our head of officials, immediately after the game. Al told him that’s a play we want to have called.”
In his approximately 30-minute news conference, Goodell was peppered with questions regarding the no-call, but remained cagey on a solution to whether pass interference or helmet-to-helmet calls should be reviewable. He was also restrained in his criticism of the officials.
“We also know our officials are human, we also know that they’re officiating a game that moves very quickly and have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances,” Goodell said. “And they’re not gonna get it right every time.”
With the NFC title game tied at 20, the Saints were driving deep into Rams territory with under two minutes to play. On 3rd and 10, and with 1:48 to play, Rams cornerback Nickel Robey-Coleman crushed Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis with a helmet-to-helmet hit on a throw from Drew Brees while the ball was in the air. The ball fell incomplete and the referees declined to call pass interference, forcing the Saints to kick a field goal.
“Whenever officiating is part of any kind of discussion post-game, it’s never a good outcome for us,” Goodell said bluntly.
If pass interference had been called, the Saints would have received a new set of downs, allowing them to simply run down the clock and kick the game-winning field goal. The Rams tied the game on a field goal of their own in regulation, then won 26-23 with a 57-yard field goal in overtime to book their ticket to the Super Bowl.
Following the game, Robey-Coleman himself admitted that he had committed a blatant pass interference penalty. He was later fined $26,739 for his helmet-to-helmet hit.
“Came to the sideline, looked at the football gods and was like, ‘Thank you,’” Robey-Coleman said. “I got away with one tonight.”
Several times Wednesday, Goodell reiterated that the NFL Competition Committee – which Payton is a part of — will be tasked this offseason with studying whether replay should be used to review penalty calls.
“Technology is not gonna solve all those issues, the game is not officiated by robots, it’s not going to be,” Goodell said. “But we have to continue to go down that path.”
“As far as where we can go, we will look again at instant replay.”
Goodell said that what made this specific play more complex was that it was a no-call, which would have required someone from the NFL’s replay review office in New York to step in.
“The other complication is that it was a no-call, and our coaches and clubs have been very resistant — and there has not been support to date about having a replay official or somebody in New York — throw a flag, when there has been no flag,” Goodell said Wednesday.
“That’s part of this issue of not wanting a replay official, or an official back in New York, throwing a flag on a no-call. If that happens, you could have multiple fouls on a play that people are looking at.”
The missed call sparked a petition on Change.org for an NFC title game rematch which has received more than 760,000 signatures. It also prompted a similar lawsuit which is making its way through federal court.
Goodell was adamant that he never even considered the possibility of replaying the game and claimed he did not even have the authority to order such a move.
“Absolutely not… that was not a consideration,” he said.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that the league was looking at a proposal which would give coaches a certain number of challenges per game for judgement calls by officials.