By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — When the yellow flag flew for defensive pass interference on Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes in a recent game, coach Mike Zimmer immediately contested the call.
His newfound right to seek a replay, however, went unexercised. The email Zimmer received earlier in the day from the NFL, containing current statistics on the experimental penalty reviews, had already dashed that hope.
“They haven’t overturned any, so I said, ‘Screw it,’” Zimmer said after Minnesota beat Washington on Oct. 24.
None of the 11 reviews of defensive pass interference calls around the league over the first nine weeks of the season resulted in a reversal, with officials ordered to adhere to a standard of “clear and obvious visual evidence” for any overturns. There were 63 pass interference replay reviews overall, including 26 for offense and 37 for defense and 22 for calls and 41 for non-calls. Only nine resulted in a reversal.
“We are challenging things that we think are plays that are going to be overturned, and we are going to trust the process,” Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “But so far, I’ve been given the Heisman. I’ve been stiff-armed. I’m 0 for 27, I think.”
Exaggeration aside, Gruden has twice been denied attempts to have non-calls turned into defensive pass interference and twice trying to erase an offensive pass interference penalty. Not even the guidance of former NFL referee Gerry Austin, who worked on three Super Bowl crews and was hired by the Raiders as an officiating adviser, has been able to help Gruden get results from his red flag.
There’s long been a hesitance to legislate penalties like this, for fear of making games take longer. The problem so far in the view of coaches, players, analysts and fans has not been a slowdown, though, but an apparently higher standard for pass interference in the review room in New York than on fields around the league.
Confusion, as with some of the other recent high-profile officiating issues like the process of a catch and roughing the passer, has been the prevailing theme. Even NBC analyst Tony Dungy, the famously mild-mannered former coach, complained about the situation on Twitter this week while referencing the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game on Monday night. He pleaded with the NFL to change the rule.
“You’re causing teams to lose timeouts, making your officiating department look inept, and making us fans feel stupid,” Dungy said.