PHOENIX - NFL owners will consider nearly two dozen rules change proposals this week at their annual spring meeting. But unless there is a dramatic shift in thinking among the owners, the one rule that could go a long way toward correcting major problems likely will be ignored.
Several teams have introduced measures that would subject officiating calls to the replay challenge system, but there appears to be a strong likelihood that the status quo will continue for at least another year. That will come as a major disappointment to fans who have had enough of bad calls impacting the outcome of games -- see: Lions-Cowboys wild card playoffs in January.
But the vibe coming out of the competition committee in advance of the meeting is that there is no appetite for adding penalties to the list of reviewable plays a coach can challenge.
"We looked at a lot of different fouls and the standard is that it would be so difficult to officiate with replay because you have two separate standards and they're so vastly separate," said longtime committee member Jeff Fisher, the Rams head coach. "It's our responsibility to improve the quality of officiating and we can take care of some of these issues on the field. We frame-by-framed a lot of [plays] this spring and it's just not something we support."
I get it that officiating is difficult, especially in a sport with so many rules and with so many calls being made in the blink of an eye. And I understand that officials can theoretically become hesitant if they know that their judgment calls on penalties can be subject to replay review.
But aren't plays that are already reviewable -- including turnovers, scoring plays, whether a player is down by contact, etc. -- judgment calls, too? Officials have to make snap decisions on those plays, which are part of the replay system. So why should penalties be any different? If an official botches an obvious call, then why shouldn't a coach have the ability to challenge it if it comes at a particularly important time in a game?
Fisher argues that replay "was never designed to involve fouls," and that it should be "our responsibility on the field whether these are fouls or not fouls."
But if replay is available to correct turnovers, touchdowns and receptions -- and remember, those reviews are looked at frame-by-frame, too -- then why not penalties?
The Lions were burned by a non-call in their 24-20 loss to the Cowboys in the NFC wild card playoffs, when Matthew Stafford's fourth-quarter pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew deep in Dallas territory fell incomplete after he appeared to be interfered with by rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens. A flag initially was thrown, but referee Pete Morelli picked it up without explanation and the play stood as called.
There's no telling whether the Lions would have won the game if a penalty had been called, but that's not the point. If the call was wrong, it should have been corrected. And if replay included penalties, it could have been used to make the right call.
But if the sentiment on the competition committee is shared by the owners when they meet this week, it looks like similar calls in the future won't be up for review.
Perhaps the owners ought to more closely consider an idea from the Patriots, who have proposed a rule allowing any play in a game -- anything -- be included in the coaches' challenge system. If the idea is to have a mechanism that would correct obvious officiating mistakes, it makes sense.
The Colts have proposed a new rule that would create a nine-point play: a touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion that, if successful, would allow an additional point for a 50-yard field goal. Cute, but no thanks . . . Philip Rivers to the Titans? The Chargers' veteran quarterback won't sign an extension -- his contract is up after this season -- and he has ties to Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the former Chargers offensive coordinator. Tennessee has the No. 2 overall pick, and speculation persists that the Titans would consider moving the pick to San Diego in exchange for Rivers and perhaps additional players or picks. The Chargers could then select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is the presumptive second-ranked quarterback behind Florida State's Jameis Winston . . . So Santonio Holmes can't understand why no one wants to sign him? Let's help. He's 31, he missed a combined 17 games from 2012-13 with the Jets because of injuries, had only eight catches in 14 games with the Bears last season, and has a well-chronicled history of locker room issues with the Steelers and Jets . . . NFL owners will discuss the thorny issue of the Los Angeles market, where three teams -- the Rams, Chargers and Raiders -- are attempting to relocate. No immediate resolution is expected.