DATs DAVIS: Rams Call For All Personal Fouls To Be Reviewable; USFL Provides Perfect Example Of Why Rule Change Would Work

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last two weeks, the National Football League has come under fire from sports media due to controversial officiating. Coaches, team owners, and players have expressed frustration over NFL referees making game-changing personal foul calls that swing the outcome of games in favor of opposing teams.

Now, the Los Angeles Rams are charging ahead and intend to resubmit a proposal to the league that would require all personal foul penalties be subject to further review. Officials say the committee intends to discuss the roughing the passer penalty both during the offseason & at an upcoming meeting in New York.

The Rams made this proposal last year to the NFL committee but it was unanimously denied 9-0. The public outrage directed at game officials began two weeks ago during the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Falcons had captured the momentum, scoring a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to cut the deficit down to a one possession lead. On the ensuing drive, Falcons star defensive lineman Grady Jarrett came up with a huge sack on Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. However, a penalty flag flew in from behind the play and head referee Jerome Boger called roughing the passer on Jarrett. The Bucs were given a fresh set of downs, and the Falcons ultimately lost to knock the team down to 2-3 at the time. Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson was irate, calling the penalty “BS” and updating his Twitter profile to feature the ref’s face.

The outrage continued into the following Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. Raiders got out to an early lead after a fourth down deep shot to receiver Davante Adams, but the Chiefs climbed back into the game by making some big stops on defense. Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones came up with a big strip sack on quarterback Derek Carr, taking the ball away before Carr was taken down to the ground.

However, Jones’ play was negated by head referee Carl Cheffers. Cheffers ruled roughing the passer on Jones, and it took away what would have been great field position for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. There was a mass outcry at the call shortly after from players, former players, football analysts, fans and coaches. Emmanuel Acho posted a replay of the play, advocating for Jones.

Chiefs fans attending the game were outraged, booing the officials all game for the call. The Chiefs stayed in the fight, and ultimately pulled out a narrow 30-29 victory over its division rival. During the postgame conference, it was ruled that the Jones penalty was the result of the lineman putting his full body weight on Carr. The quarterback is ruled a defenseless player when he is in a throwing posture. Jones spoke to reporters in the locker room, advocating for changes in how the penalty is ruled.

Other defensive players around the league have voiced similar sentiments to media. A third instance occurred during Sunday’s game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the New Orleans Saints. A roughing the passer penalty was called on Saints linebacker Demario Davis after his hit on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Saints fans in the stadium erupted in protest, and CBS analyst Adam Archuleta took to Davis’ defense.

“He didn’t hit him in the helmet. Initially it looked like he hit Burrow before the second step was down. When the QB is outside the pocket, you’re allowed to hit him within one step. And he didn’t hit him helmet to helmet. I know it was a hard hit. But in my eyes, everything about that should’ve been clean.”

NFL Rules Analyst Gene Steratore promptly agreed with Archuleta’s assessment. The penalty gave the Bengals a fresh set of downs, and the drive resulted in a touchdown. The Saints ultimately lost 30-26 at home and dropped to 2-4 on the season.

With the New York meeting coming up, a good argument for why personal fouls should be subject to further review is found in the newly launched USFL. The USFL had its debut season earlier this year. While teams were put in a bubble due to COVID-19 and fan viewing was limited as a result, the product steadily progressed week after week. Players in the USFL have the opportunity to be signed by an NFL franchise, if they perform well. NFL Officiating could potentially follow a similar notion.

In the USFL, all personal foul penalties are subject to further review. The league promotes transparency into how calls are made by Mike Pereira and the USFL officiating crew. A prime example is the game between the New Orleans Breakers and the Tampa Bay Bandits. The Bandits were driving, in position to come away with points before Breakers linebacker Jerod Fernandez came with pressure to force an errant throw. The pass was intercepted by Breakers defensive back Adonis Alexander. Fernandez was initially flagged for roughing the passer, but the flag was picked up after further review by Pereira.

ESPN has more HERE.