Sean Payton told NFL Network that if the league doesn't make changes to its instant replay system or officiating this offseason, "then ownership is saying they're comfortable with what happened a year ago."
The New Orleans Saints coach was obviously referencing the missed pass interference call that helped cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl in January. But he didn't stop with just that one play. He also suggested officials should be hired on a full-time basis instead of part-time.
"There are a handful of things that we've got to be better at right now," Payton said while making some of his strongest comments yet on the subject during an interview from the league meetings in Phoenix. "Our best at playing and our best at coaching are spending 20 hours, 18 hours a day. Our best at officiating, it's their second job. That has to change, because it's too hard, there's too much at stake for someone who's a teacher at a school, who's a florist, an attorney. That's backward thinking.
"And really as we move forward into the next 10 years, for instance, of our game, where do we want officiating? With all of the technology we have available to us, our fans are closer to the game, our fans are way more in tuned and educated as to the correct calls in the game. And we just need to be better."
Payton is a member of the NFL's competition committee, which has proposed two expansions to instant replay for league owners to consider this week.
The first proposal would add fouls for pass interference to the list of reviewable plays. The second would include fouls for pass interference but also would add fouls for roughing the passer and unnecessary hits against a defenseless receiver. Both would call for a one-year trial before permanently being added to the rule book.
Neither proposal would actually prevent what happened in the Saints' NFC Championship Game loss to the Los Angeles Rams -- because they would not allow plays to be reviewed in cases where no flag was thrown. But it would still represent a major shift for a league that has been reticent to add "judgment calls" to replay review.
It's also worth noting that it was multiple other teams and not the Saints that formally proposed expanding the NFL's replay-review system this offseason.
On that subject, coaches met with the competition committee Monday afternoon and, like Payton, made clear that they want officiating to be improved and that expanded replay is one of the ways to address that goal, several sources told ESPN's Kevin Seifert.
Owners are scheduled to debate the issue Tuesday. But the sources noted that the complexity of the issue, and the unprecedented proposal to add at least pass interference into the list of reviewable plays, will make it difficult to resolve during these meetings. As often happens in these situations, it's possible the replay proposal could be tabled and taken back up at the league's spring meetings, scheduled for May 20-22 in Key Biscayne, Fla.
When Payton was asked how he will feel if the owners don't implement any changes, he said, "I can't control that, though. In other words, you can only get so upset and so angry. But if not, it tells you to some degree -- look, there's part of you that believes that there are those in television that think that drama (of a missed call) is perfect. That's hard to take, but there are those that believe that."
When Payton was then asked about others who feel his team got "robbed," he said, "Put me in that number."
"But the idea that we're discussing it today and that we're having this impactful discussion today would get back to that group that says, 'Hey, people don't want to (tune) into a car race with no bumps or crashes. People don't want it to be finely-tuned ...'" Payton said. "Hey, I understand that line of thinking. But we've gotta get that corrected, I think, though. The big errors like that, especially in 2019."