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Replay standard will become even more important when reviewing PI

The NFL will be discussing changes to the overtime format in May, but there's word that it'll only be exclusive to the playoffs.

From the time the league first adopted replay review, the standard (despite whatever technical name may apply) boils down to this: Would 50 drunks in a bar agree that an officiating mistake was made?

Whether the phrase is “indisputable visual evidence” or “clear and obvious” or something else, that’s the bottom line. The mistake must be egregious, and the remedy must be a reversal of the ruling on the field.

With offensive and defensive pass interference now added to the menu of reviewable plays, the standard for overturning the ruling on the field takes on even greater importance, as does its application by the league office, which retains final say over all replay decisions. Al Riveron or one of his lieutenants should not supply their judgment for the judgment exercised by the on-field officials; they must defer the ruling on the field unless the error is unmistakable.

Recent history proves that can be far easier said than done. In 2017, Riveron on multiple occasions used replay review as a fresh look at the question of whether a pass was caught. In 2018, that flaw was rectified. In 2019, Riveron will be the guinea pig for the one-year-for-now experiment with replay review of interference calls.

The extent to which Riveron does, or doesn’t, properly apply the replay standard could go a long way toward determining whether replay review of pass interference survives for 2020 and beyond. It also could go a long way toward determining whether Riveron survives in the job, given that an already-difficult game-day assignment has expanded, opening up a new area of debate regarding whether Riveron did, or didn’t, apply his authority over the officiating function properly.