Roughing the passer is the source of some of the fiercest arguments over NFL officiating.
Sunday night’s showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins offered up another prime entry in the debate.
With the game tied at 3-3 early in the second quarter, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts looked to D’Andre Swift in the flat on a second-and-10 play from the Miami 35-yard line. Cornerback Perry Nickerson read the route and jumped in front of Hurts’ pass to knock it down in the backfield, seemingly setting up a third-and-10.
But there was a flag. Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins hit Hurts just after he threw the ball. Hurts dropped to the turf, and officials flagged Wilkins for roughing the passer.
Here’s another look.
Wilkins took one step after Hurts released the ball, then slowed his momentum. He put both hands on Hurts’ torso as he pulled up. Hurts went flailing to the turf.
Wilkins wasn’t late. He didn’t hit him high. He didn’t hit him low. He didn’t land on him with his body weight. He didn’t land on him at all. But officials deemed the play a penalty, and the Eagles were awarded a first-and-10 at the Miami 20-yard line instead of third-and-10 at the 35.
Two plays later, Hurts found tight end Dallas Goedert for a touchdown to give Philadelphia a 10-3 lead.
NBC rules analyst Terry McAuley didn’t like the call.
“He hits him in one step — he actually pulls off with his hands,” McAuley said. “He doesn’t follow through and blow up the quarterback. This just isn’t enough for roughing the passer.”
A prominent former NFL quarterback also disagreed. Hall of Famer Kurt Warner took to social media to call for roughing plays to be eligible for replay review.
It’s time to make “roughing the passer” reviewable… to many “no ways” happening right now! (And it’s extending drives, leading to TDs & changing complexion of games) #WhosWithMe 🙋🏻♂️
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) October 23, 2023
Warner’s call is likely to go unheeded. The NFL made pass interference reviewable in 2019, a decision the league rescinded after one season with NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent declaring that it “‘failed miserably.” The league doesn’t have an appetite for making another judgment call like roughing replay eligible.
It also doesn’t have an answer for fixing calls like Sunday night’s.