Sean Payton is not surprised that the NFL plans to end its one-year experiment of allowing pass interference calls to be reviewed by replay.
Appearing on Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan on Thursday, Payton said it became clear last season that “we weren’t prepared to enforce that and monitor that the correct way.”
“I think the theory behind what the league voted on certainly had a chance to be successful. But quite honestly we weren’t ready in New York to handle it,” Payton said, referencing the league’s officiating headquarters, where PI replay reviews were determined. “And I know that sounds critical, but that’s just a fact. The consistency and the ability to take in the calls and at least come up with a fairly level basis of what we’re gonna interpret that call on. And if we’re not ready there, then we shouldn’t have it.
“And I think that’s the feeling that all of us have right now, including myself.”
Payton was a driving force behind the league’s groundbreaking decision to allow pass interference calls to be reviewed for the first time last season after his team was the victim of a controversial missed PI call in the NFC Championship Game.
But like many other coaches and fans, Payton became disenchanted with the league’s frustratingly high and inconsistent standard for overturning such calls.
The NFL overturned only 13 of the 81 pass interference-related plays that coaches challenged during the regular season last year. (Booth reviews resulted in reversals on 11 of 20 instances.)
Even when the rule had a chance to possibly aid the Saints in their overtime playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the league decided there was not enough contact to call offensive PI against Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph on the game’s final play.
Thirty-one of the NFL’s 32 teams voted to experiment with the new PI review rule on a one-year basis last season. However, they would have had to vote again this year to make it a permanent rule change. And there was not enough interest from teams or the NFL’s competition committee to even propose a vote during the virtual league meetings later this month.
“We’re not going to vote … because nobody is putting forward the OPI/DPI review again,” competition committee chairman Rich McKay told Sirius/XM Radio recently. “So that dies a natural death.”
Payton was even more critical of the NFL on Thursday when asked about former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison’s claim that coach Mike Tomlin gave him an “envelope” as a reward for a devastating helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010.
Payton, of course, was suspended for an entire season in 2012 among other severe penalties handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the so-called “Bountygate” scandal, when Saints players were accused of earning rewards for hits that resulted in injuries.
“If people are waiting for the league to investigate that, they shouldn’t hold their breath,” Payton told 105.7. “I think what took place with us back in 2011 in so many ways was a sham. And yet there wasn’t a lot we could do with it. You know, the players were vindicated. But from a league or coaching standpoint, there’s no union, no representation.”
Payton said he would be “shocked” if the league punished the Steelers.
“That’ll be something that’s tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue,” Payton said. “They’ll look into it briefly. Listen, don’t get me started on that. I lost $6 million in salary. And honestly it was something that I’ll never truly get over because I know how it was handled and how it was run and the reasons behind it. And that’s just the truth.”
The four players who were punished by the NFL during Bountygate eventually had their punishments vacated after fighting back through the league’s appeals process and the court system.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was brought in late in the process to hear the players’ appeals, cited a lack of clear evidence and precedent for such harsh discipline in most cases. Although Tagliabue strongly rebuked the Saints for wrongdoing, he stressed that the punishments were more for pregame “talk” than any actual misconduct on the field.
However, no such appeals process was available to Payton or other coaches and team executives who served their own suspensions. The team was also fined and stripped of two second-round draft picks.
Payton said on Thursday’s radio interview that he has had a number of media members apologize to him over the years “because they ate the early cheese on that topic — they were fed handfuls of it by the league office.”
Said Payton: “I think the media today is a little more cautious with what they’re being fed early on.”