Source: NFL won't alter officiating rules in reaction to Saint-Rams debacle

NFL columnist
Yahoo Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – After stirring a hornet’s nest of New Orleans Saints fans following a controversial non-call on a pass interference in the NFC title game last month, the NFL isn’t moving to make any rules changes to remedy the mistake this offseason.

A source from the league’s competition committee – which is meeting this week during the league's annual scouting combine – told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday there is “very little” support to make changes that would have impacted the infamous no-call late in the NFC championship game, which saw Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman blatantly interfere with Saints wideout Tommylee Lewis on a pass that could have positioned New Orleans for a commanding fourth quarter lead. The Saints kicked a late field goal for a 23-20 lead after the interference, but eventually lost 26-23 in overtime.

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The Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman knows he got away with one in the NFC title game against the Saints and Tommylee Lewis. (AP)
The Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman knows he got away with one in the NFC title game against the Saints and Tommylee Lewis. (AP)

Following the game, Robey-Coleman admitted to knowing he had interfered on the play and the NFL immediately apologized to the Saints in a phone call between league officials and New Orleans head coach Sean Payton.The moment sparked outrage in the Saints fan base, leading to – among many things – a grassroots boycott of the Super Bowl broadcast, some political grandstanding, a lawsuit, and even a seemingly easily provable conspiracy theory that Payton donned a Roger Goodell “clown” T-shirt beneath a pullover during a news conference to wrap up the Saints’ season.

Despite that high-profile gaffe and the fallout that ensued, the competition committee source told Yahoo Sports that this week’s meeting at the combine hasn’t had any pointed focus toward fixing the obvious officiating error. The source said the committee's stance is partially because there isn’t enough data to support the erroneous call being a pressing league issue, but also because there is significant reticence to expanding instant replay into non-calls.

“The implications at this point – there’s just a lot that could be impacted and not enough thought behind that kind of a change,” the source said. “Some of the things being called for by [the media and fans] are big changes and the appetite just isn't there right now.

“It was a big mistake in a big game – nobody is denying that. But there isn’t evidence that it's something undermining the vast majority of our games. You are all a long way from proving that.”

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