NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday said the no-call pass interference that helped the Los Angeles Rams defeat the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 20 “should have been called,” but appeared apprehensive about making substantial rule changes.
“We understand the frustration of the fans,” Goodell said during his annual State of the League address ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl. “I’ve talked to [Saints coach Sean] Payton, the team, the players. We understand the frustration they feel right now, and we certainly want to address that. Whenever officiating is part of any kind of discussion postgame, it’s never a good outcome for us.”
As Super Bowl LIII approaches, the controversial no-call continues to overshadow the big game in Atlanta between the Rams and the AFC’s New England Patriots.
In the NFC title game, no penalty was called after Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis, helmet to helmet, while a Drew Brees pass was in the air with less than two minutes remaining. A flag for pass interference would have given the Saints a first down and a chance to run down the clock before kicking a potential game-winning field goal.
At least one lawsuit filed against the league by two Saints ticketholders calls on Goodell to either reverse the game’s result or reschedule the game from the point of the no-call – or replay the game in its entirety. The league recently said that replaying the game would have been prohibitively costly.
Goodell insisted that changing the rules to allow penalties or adding an eight official to crews would only create more challenges. He acknowledged that expanding instant replay technology was a possibility, but qualified that it would not “cover judgment calls.”
“We will look again at instant replay,” said Goodell, who added that league executives recognize the frustration of Saints fans. “There have been a variety of proposals over the last — frankly 15 to 20 years — of should replay be expanded? It does not cover judgment calls. This was a judgment call.”
He later added: “But we also know our officials are human, we know they’re officiating a game that moves very quickly and have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances, and they’re not going to get it right every time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.