Dan GrazianoESPN Staff WriterClose
- Joined ESPN in 2011
- New Jersey native and author of two published novels
ATLANTA — In the wake of the officiating controversy at the end of the NFC Championship Game, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league would discuss changes that could help avoid such occurrences in the future.
“We will look again at instant replay,” Goodell said at his annual Super Bowl news conference. “There have been a variety of proposals over the last, frankly, 15, 20 years on whether replay should be expanded. It does not cover judgment calls; this was a judgment call. The other complication is that it was a no-call.
“And our coaches and clubs have been very resistant, and there has not been support to date, about having a replay official or somebody in New York throw a flag when there is no flag. They have not voted for that in the past.”
Despite the history of opposition to that sort of fix, Goodell said it would be put to the competition committee again this offseason and that discussions on expanding the use of replay technology to help correct on-field officiating mistakes would continue.
“Whenever officiating is part of any kind of discussion postgame, it’s never a good outcome for us,” Goodell said. “But we also know our officials are human, and that they’re officiating a game that moves very quickly, and that they have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances and they’re not going to get it right every time.
“We have worked very hard to bring technology in to try to make sure we can do whatever’s possible to address those issues. But technology’s not going to solve all those issues. The game is not officiated by robots. It’s not going to be. But we have to continue to go down that path.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that one potential solution under consideration is a plan that would allow limited coaches’ challenges for incorrect judgment calls that could also include a penalty or time run-off if the coach is wrong. Goodell didn’t get into specific potential solutions but seemed to want it made clear that the topic would be addressed this offseason.
“My role is to make sure the competition committee understands that this is critical for us to analyze,” Goodell said, “to evaluate and to try to see if there’s a better solution than what we have today.”
It’s cold comfort for the Saints and their fans, who continue to believe the team was robbed of a Super Bowl appearance when officials missed a clear pass-interference violation and helmet-to-helmet hit by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on the same play late in regulation Jan. 20 in New Orleans.
Goodell said he’d spoken personally with Saints coach Sean Payton and owner Gayle Benson, and pointed out that Al Riveron, the league’s director of officiating, called Payton immediately after the game to admit the mistake.
“We understand the frustration of the fans, and we certainly want to address that,” Goodell said. “It’s a play that should be called, and we’re going to do everything we can going forward to improve.”
While the blown call was the hot topic, Goodell as usual fielded a variety of questions on a variety of issues:
• Minority coaching opportunities: Following a season that saw five minority head coaches fired and only one hired, Goodell said the league needs to figure out how to create more opportunities for minority candidates to get the quarterbacks-coach and offensive-coordinator positions that are leading to head-coaching jobs.
He mentioned an upcoming “QB Summit” at Morehouse College in Atlanta, the aim of which would be to train and mentor potential head-coaching candidates.
• Where the Raiders will play in 2019: With the Raiders in a dispute over their lease in Oakland, California, and their Las Vegas stadium not scheduled to be ready until 2020, the team needs a place to play.
Goodell said it’s unfortunate that the city of Oakland has filed suit against the team, and that the league needs a resolution soon so it can make its schedule. He said he believes Raiders owner Mark Davis is determined to find a solution that keeps the team in the Bay Area one more season.
• Specific player discipline cases: Goodell said there’s been “tremendous progress” made in the investigation into off-field incidents involving former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, that he is currently a free agent and that any team that signs him would know he’d be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list until a final decision on discipline is reached.
Goodell said the league continues to investigate allegations against Redskins linebacker Reuben Foster. And he didn’t rule out the possibility of Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon being reinstated from his most recent drug suspension, though he said Gordon’s focus is on getting healthy.
“This is well beyond football,” Goodell said. “This is for his life.”
• Colin Kaepernick: On the topic of the former 49ers quarterback who hasn’t been signed by a team in two years and has a pending collusion lawsuit against the league, Goodell said what he’s always said: that it’s up to individual teams to determine whom they sign and don’t sign, and that the league office has nothing to do with that.