The NFL needs to change the penalty enforcement for defensive pass interference today. It is way too harsh for such a judgment call.
Currently, the penalty for defensive pass interference is to place the ball at the spot of the foul if it occurs in the field of play. This means it can range from one yard to 98. If the penalty occurs in the end zone then the ball is placed at the defensive team’s one yard line. No matter how much yardage the offense gains they are awarded an automatic first down.
This penalty is too harsh for two reasons. The first is that it allows an offense to just throw the football up recklessly knowing that it will either likely be caught or defensive pass interference will be called. No one on defense can touch a receiver going for the ball while it is in the air. On a deep throw it is hard for a defender to adjust to a ball when he does not know where it is going while the receiver does. All the receiver has to do is make the defender run into him and it is pass interference.
In this scenario a team is almost guaranteed 30 easy yards just by throwing the ball up. They can easily get a first and goal by throwing it into the end zone and letting their receiver battle for it. This is especially the case on back shoulder passes that are becoming more and more popular.
The second and most important reason is that by making pass interference a spot foul you are assuming that the receiver will catch the ball. As we all know receivers drop passes. Jackie Smith is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and he is best known for dropping a wide open pass while playing for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. Reggie Wayne dropped a key third down pass while playing in Super Bowl XLIV with the Indianapolis Colts. One can never assume that a receiver will catch the ball.
The NFL needs to make defensive pass interference 15 yards and an automatic first down just as it is at every other level of tackle football. Even former Vice President of officiating Mike Pereira has said this. This is a fair penalty for the infraction.
Those who disagree with making defensive pass interference a 15 yard, automatic first down penalty say that defensive backs would just grab receivers when it became obvious that they were going to be beaten. Defenders can already do this and it only costs them five yards if the ball is not in the air. It is called holding. How many defensive holding calls are made per game? Also if a defensive back kept committing pass interference penalties he would be replaced in a heartbeat.
I have officiated at the high school level and watched college football for years. I do not see defensive backs grabbing receivers every time they get beat. I see them try to make a play on the ball just like the pros. The 15 yard and automatic first down has worked well for both the high school and college game.
It is time for NFL offenses to earn their yardage through the air. They have all of the advantages anyway.
The NFL needs to get in step with everyone else and make defensive pass interference 15 yards and an automatic first down.