Sean Payton is a supporter of the NFL’s new taunting rules, but he’s not happy with the way the league has implemented them so far.
Payton, who used to be a member of the NFL’s competition committee, which agreed on the taunting emphasis for 2021, opened up about the rule in an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show”. Payton believes the rule is unpopular because of what the NFL umpires call it.
“I think it’s been over-fired,” Payton told Patrick. “I sat through the discussions and I don’t think any of us who discussed it saw him where he is now.”
Payton’s vision for the rule involves having a firm line that players know not to cross when on the field.
“It’s like anything else,” Payton said. “The line has to eventually be bright.”
MORE: Images, videos of Mac Jones’ life as a child model
So what does Payton think should constitute a mocking flag? He specifically referenced players “hovering over players” or “crawling over players with their crotches,” but in general, his method is even more simplistic than that.
“If you and I watch a game and we say we sit next to each other and we turn to each other and we say, ‘Taunt,’ it’s probably a mocking foul,” Payton said.
Yet that’s the exact challenge with the rule, in Payton’s mind. Calls are subjective and vary from person to person and officer to officer.
“That’s where the communication challenge lies, as far as, ‘Hey, here I’m going to show you 50 clips and you tell me which ones you think should be called teasing,'” Payton said. “It is no different than mistreating the passer.”
INJURY UPDATES: The latest on Alvin Kamara, Miles Sanders and more
However, as Payton pointed out later in the interview, brusque calls from passersby are another can of worms. There’s a questionable one that was called up against the Saints in their loss to the Titans, and that prompted Payton to express his dismay at the state of the NFL umpires at this point.
“We have seen him spend every weekend with the referees.” Payton said. “That is the hardest thing to overcome is when they are not up to date.”
Payton also referenced what happened with the Bears against the Steelers, when Cassius Marsh received a whistle for a taunting call that few agreed with. The NFL has doubled down on and backed Tony Corrente’s decision, and Payton wasn’t surprised.
“I hate getting to the point where it’s expected,” Payton said of the questionable calls. “We’re like … numb.”
MORE: Questionable rudeness of passer call denies Saints interception
But Payton doesn’t blame officials for the problem itself. He thinks it’s more of a league problem.
“Those problems start at the top, not with individual crews,” he said.
Is there a way to fix the problem? Payton wants the NFL to hire full-time officials, but the league is reluctant to do so. Either way, Payton has a goal in mind for umpire teams.
“We have to improve,” he said. “Everyone who watches, participates in and engages in it deserves better.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.