The Denver Broncos became the first NFL team to enact the latest (but hardly greatest) tool in an ongoing crusade against pass interference.
Late in the first half of the Broncos’ preseason-opening victory over the Chicago Bears on Aug. 1, head coach Vic Fangio challenged a DPI penalty against cornerback Linden Stephens, entangled with an Atlanta wide receiver on a deep ball down the left sideline.
The call stood, but history was made nonetheless.
Unfortunately for the league, interference remains as subjective as ever, and the new challenge option, sadly, could cause more confusion than clarity. At least in year one, it’ll be a major work in progress.
Which Broncos general manager John Elway understands. But isn’t necessarily doing cartwheels over. He sounded off on his concerns about the amended rule during Saturday’s State of Training Camp press conference.
“It’s hard. I think we’re still going through it,” Elway said. “Anytime you make rule changes like we’ve made, it’s going to take some time for adjustment. I think we’re going to see some time with adjustment getting used to the pass interference call. What is clear and obvious is always what you write down and different crews are going to evaluate it differently, and that is the hard thing. When we have a rule change that is kind of up in the air and it’s kind of a judgement call, it’s always difficult to get consistency among the crews. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve seen a couple that should have been overturned that didn’t, but that’s the case with other things that go to replay too. I think we’ll continue to get better with it. What we are trying to do is trying to stay away from the play that happened in New Orleans with the Rams and try to prevent that.”
A Pragmatic Fangio Gives His Two Cents
While Denver head coach Vic Fangio’s name will be etched into the record books for throwing this particular red flag, he made clear that the challenge wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. Fangio intends to maintain a realistically optimistic view toward a change he believes could aid the sport.
“I’m [not going to just] challenge anything,” he emphasized last week. “Again, the thing people forget about this new rule is you still only get two challenges. I probably wouldn’t have thrown that one that I threw at the Hall of Fame Game if it was a regular-season game. I think I got a pretty good feel on how they’re going to call that starting off anyway. I think you’re going to have to be judicious with it. Obviously if there’s a big swing in field position, either way, that’s worthy of a challenge. If you thought you got PI’d in the end zone and it might give you the ball on the one-yard line instead of fourth down that’s something that you would look at a little harder. I think you have to be careful doing it too early in the game for just a short first down.”
Be On The Lookout
Fangio may uncork the hanky again when the Broncos host the San Francisco 49ers at Mile High Stadium on Monday Night Football. The teams are expected to play their starters for roughly a quarter, perhaps longer, and replay-worthy pass plays are sure to be dialed up.
“They’re a very good offense,” Fangio said Saturday. “You can see that they’re in their third year there with it albeit [San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy] Garoppolo’s two and a half years although he missed most of last year. They’re running it very efficiently. We run an offense fairly similar to that and hopefully we can get to there quickly.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL