New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton successfully lobbied his fellow coaches and owners to make pass interference a reviewable and challengeable infraction after his team didn’t get an obvious PI call in the fourth quarter of the NFC title game earlier this year.
While it seems like an idea whose time was overdue, there are some who are concerned that there will now be red challenge flags flying every few minutes.
But Payton tried to calm those concerns on Thursday.
‘Remember: We only have two’
The longtime Saints coach is one of several current and former NFL players and coaches taking part in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe this weekend (he’s paired with Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy and Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson for Friday’s opening round).
He chatted with “NFL Total Access” on Thursday, in part about the new PI rule.
“Let's start with the very first premise for the fans: It's still just like all the other challenges that we have in place,” Payton said. “Remember: We only have two [challenges] to start with. So I don't think you're going to see more challenge flags.
“Probably you're going to be a little bit more judicious knowing that you want to have at least one left and if you feel like there's something you see clearly and it's outside of two minutes [before each half], as a coach you can challenge it. And of course, inside of two minutes, it goes upstairs to replay. And we're all, in this day and age with our technology and with the fans getting a chance to see real-time, we're wanting those calls, especially in games like that, to be officiated correctly.”
While it’s easy to have the knee-jerk reaction that the ability to challenge pass interference calls, or non-calls, would lead to more challenges and therefore more stoppage in play, Payton’s reminder underscores the fact that coaches still only start with two challenges per game.
Officials will determine whether to review PI calls in the final two minutes of each half.
Brees remains elite
Payton was also asked about his team’s franchise quarterback, Drew Brees, who celebrated his 40th birthday earlier this year, and whether New Orleans can expect continued strong play from Brees.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Payton said. “All the time we go by what we see. He had an exceptional season for us last year, his spring was fantastic. These guys, especially when you talk about the elite players, take such good care of their bodies. That age that we’re accustomed to [believing a player’s skills will diminish] has actually gotten higher. We’re looking forward to the start of the season, and I know Drew is.”
Brees finished second in MVP voting last year, though well behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. Brees’ completion percentage was an incredible 74.4 percent as he threw for 3,992 yards with 32 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
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