Roger Goodell: NFL will 'look again at instant replay'

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters Wednesday that the much-discussed non-call on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman during the NFC Championship Game was a play that "should have been called" and the league will "look again at instant replay."

Much of Goodell's time during his State of the League news conference in Atlanta was spent fielding questions centered around the non-call and steps the league can possibly take to ensure that plays like that do not happen again.

"Let me start just on the basics. Look, we understand the frustration of the fans. I've talked to [Saints coach Sean Payton]. The team, the players, we understand the frustration that they feel right now. We certainly want to address that," Goodell said ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl LIII between the Rams and Patriots. "Whenever officiating is part of any kind of discussion post-game, it's never a good outcome for us."

Payton in the immediate aftermath of the Saints' overtime loss to the Rams on Jan. 20 -- which featured the non-call that would have given New Orleans a potential game-icing first-down late in the fourth quarter -- said the play showed "all more reason we need more replay."

Goodell was asked if the play could spark an expansion of replay.

"We have worked very hard to bring technology in to try to make sure we can do whatever's possible to address those issues," Goodell said. "But technology is not going to solve all of 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. Specifically, on Sunday night I think Coach Payton spoke to Al Riveron, our head of officials, immediately after the game. Al told him that that's the play we want to have called. I have spoken to him, Troy Vincent, the head of football operations, has spoken to him. I've spoken to [Saints owner Gayle Benson]. Coach has also spoken to the competition committee, Rich McKay, the chairman, so there's been a great deal of communication in making sure that they understand that."

Goodell added: "We will look again at instant replay. There have been a variety of proposals over the last, frankly, 15 or 20 years, of 'should replay be expanded?' It does not cover judgment calls. ... The other complication is that it was a no-call. 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's no flag. They have not voted for that in the past. It doesn't mean that we won't, it's something that we're going to put to the competition committee, see if there's an answer to that, but the reality is that's been at least an opposition philosophically for many clubs."

The competition committee is expected to examine potentially reviewing penalties ahead of March's Annual League Meeting, and Goodell was asked what his role is regarding those discussions.

"As it relates to what I think my role is is to make sure that the competition committee understands that this is critical for us to analyze, to evaluate and try to see if there's a better solution than what we have today," Goodell said.

"Always what happens in the competition committee is not just considering a solution, but what are the unintended consequences to that solution? And that's part of this issue of not wanting a replay official or official back in New York throwing the flag on the no-call. If that happens, you could have multiple fouls on a play that people are looking at. Now there's solutions for this, and I'm not suggesting that, that's what the committee has to focus in on. What are the solutions? What are the unintended consequences? And come up with something that we think can keep the competitive nature of our game, but also improve officiating."

Goodell's comments regarding the so-called slippery slope of instant replay are similar to previous remarks from some of the non-Sean Payton members of the league's competition committee.

"Where do you stop in that process?" McKay asked during a radio interview last week. "And I think all of those things need to be talked about, because it doesn't mean it's not possible, but it does mean you need to figure out exactly how you would implement and not impact the game negatively."

Falcons owner Arthur Blank expressed a similar sentiment during an interview on NFL Network's Super Bowl Live: "The thing you have to be careful about, it's tricky, is to make sure you don't make changes with unintended consequences that suddenly, the solution creates other problems that you don't want to deal with."

Goodell also emphatically shot down the notion that he could have intervened and overturned the result of the NFC title game due to a missed call by an official.

Goodell's statements regarding the no-call on Robey-Coleman were the league's first public comments since the NFC Championship Game, and he was asked about the perceived delay in discussing the events in New Orleans.

"As I said to you we addressed the immediately after the game. We spoke to the coach [Sean Payton]. The coach announced the conversation and the fact that this play should have been called and we had several conversations with those clubs and other officials over the next several days. That's our process. That's what we always do, particularly with judgement calls. And so it was handled no differently other than to make sure that we listen and communicated that to the officials."

While Goodell stressed on multiple occasions that a flag should been thrown on Robey-Coleman, he did take time to praise the work done by officials the difficulties the face in calling games.

"We also know our officials are human," Goodell said. "We also know that they're officiating a game that moves very quickly and have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances and they're not going to get it right every time."

"They're men and women of high integrity. They're that people that, when people are talking about officiating, they know that's not the outcome they want. So I know they're disappointed also. But they work hard to make sure we improve officiating and I think they do an excellent job."