Where the NFL has Failed, CFL and USFL have Triumphed

The hottest topic in the football world today is the interpretation of the roughing-the-passer rules in the NFL. Whether it was the call on Tom Brady or later on in favor of Derek Carr, quarterbacks are getting calls that they never should. The question is why aren’t these plays reviewable??

USFL Picks Up Flag In Playoff Game

This past USFL season the head of officiating for the USFL, and former NFL VP of Officiating, Mike Pereira was heard on camera reversing a roughing-the-passer call. This had a dramatic impact on the results of the game. The USFL not only got this play right, we as fans got to hear the breakdown of WHY the officials were reversing the call. 

This situation was executed to perfection, and it affected the end result of the game correctly. Had this call been allowed to stand, it could have changed the outlook of the game and ended in a Generals victory. Instead, the play was correctly reversed, and the interception by the Stars was upheld. Turning the tide of momentum in their favor for the remainder of the game. 

Ultimately as we all know, this play proved to be crucial to a Stars’ victory. An unlikely victory at that, against the Generals who had won 9 straight games prior to this defeat. Luis Perez was the most efficient quarterback in the league completing over 71% of his passes while throwing just 1 interception in the regular season. Who knew his second interception of the season would result in a playoff loss? 

Review of This Rule Not Unprecedented

The USFL isn’t the only league allowing roughing the passer calls to be reviewed. The CFL is another league that has allowed its officials to review these calls. While there might not be a shining example of success in year one of the rule like the USFL had, this rule has led to gameplay that is much less affected by bad officiating calls. 

At the end of the day, football fans want the referees to be seen and not heard during a game. The less we see a yellow flag on the field the better, but it’s on reviewable calls that we gain or lose our love for officials. Perhaps this is why the complaints directed toward USFL and CFL have been few and far between when compared to the NFL. 

It seems that with increasing frequency fans are forced to question calls. This has led to a nonstop debate about what constitutes a catch, or what exactly is roughing the passer. This uncertainty about how rules are interpreted has taken away from the entertainment value of the NFL. The question becomes will they take a page from the USFL or CFL and allow officials to review these calls in the future?

Future of Football

These are the exact things that provide value in Spring Football for the NFL. Leagues like the USFL provide testing grounds for rule changes and game-play innovation. Perhaps the NFL should start utilizing these leagues to help them develop a rule book that doesn’t interfere with the outcome of at least one game every week. 

NFL Failures Lead to Alt League triumphs

One thing is for sure, NFL fans would rejoice if this rule was changed. The ironic part is, if this was the USFL, the rule would already be in the process of being reviewed for necessary changes. The USFL has shown a willingness to make changes mid-season to appease fans and players alike. Two examples of this were the changing of the kicking balls, and the adjustment to roster numbers. Both of which only helped the USFL’s on-field product in the home stretch of 2022. 

NFL Reluctant to Review Penalties?

According to an article by Yardbarker.com, and another by ESPN, it appears as though the NFL will not review this rule until after the season. The thing is this is not a new subject for the NFL. In fact this exact rule change was on the table in 2021, and it did not pass in the owners meetings at the time. It remains to be seen if the latest debacles have changed the mind of owners at all, but if history serves us…the NFL will remain stuck to the status quo.

They have shown to be reluctant when it comes to adding to their review process. The CFL in particular has had several penalties that are able to be reviewed for years. In fact these rules were implemented in 2016 for the CFL. For six years, the CFL has allowed it’s coaches to review the most impactful penalties in an attempt to keep games competitive. More importantly, it has helped prevent one bad call from ending a game.

Dare I mention the 2018 or 2019 Saints NFL playoff games that ended in controversy? In back-to-back seasons the New Orleans Saints made the playoffs. Only to watch it fall apart at the last second to two blatant non-calls on penalties, that the USFL or it’s northern counterpart would have reviewed. It’s time the NFL makes changes, and until they do, I believe fans will only start to realize the entertainment value of leagues like the USFL and CFL. Placing a higher value on getting calls correct is a must for the NFL.

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