Phoenix – New Orleans Saints Owner Gayle Benson isn’t a novice when it comes to the NFL annual meetings, by any stretch of the imagination.
Fifteen years of marriage to late owner Tom Benson, and 14 years of sitting in committee meetings with him, certainly gives her comfort with the surroundings in the meeting rooms at the Arizona Biltmore, site of the current meetings, or any other venue.
It also gives her comfort when it comes to attempting to generate the ownership votes – 24 of 32 are required – that will trigger a rules change to affect the NFL replay system.
Having watched her Saints likely come within a missed call in the NFC Championship Game of advancing to the Super Bowl last season, Benson said she hopes that a change in replay can help prevent a similar error from occurring again.
“(Saints coach) Sean (Payton) is on the Competition Committee, and he’s doing a really good job of taking care of trying to express how we feel,” Benson said. “And they know how we feel. It’s just going to take us some time to go through that process.
“It’s going to be a process, though. And we’re going to need the other owners – and I’m lobbying very strongly with them – but it’s going to take 24 owners to agree to that. And so it’ll take us a little while, but we’ll get there.
“The owners feel just as badly as I do. Many of us are feeling the same thing. We’re just hoping that we can make the Saints fans feel better about what happened. I know there’s way to do that other than just to kind of make the change, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Seven possible rule changes regarding replay are up for consideration. None of them were advanced by the Saints, which suggests there is an atmosphere for change.
“The bottom line is I think there is momentum,” Saints President Dennis Lauscha said. “I think there’s a recognition – by all the presidents that I’ve talked to, all the owners that I’ve talked to – that something needs to be done. But what will happen, what will be done and will something be done, is another question. But there definitely is recognition that something needs to be done.
“We’re spending so much time and effort in making our game so great, that it’s very, very important that we make our game great also at the officiating level as well. So I think there’s momentum. Where it’s going to go, I don’t know. There are seven proposals that were put forth, none of them by the Saints. So you can see that there’s recognition that something needs to be done. Obviously, the Competition Committee is also doing something as well. So we’ll see where we land.
"Having said that, it’s very important that we do everything we can to make sure that our viewership stays up, that our mobile streaming continues to grow. And part of that is not lengthening the game. So whatever we want to do, our fans are telling us, yes, they want us to get it right, but on the other hand, they want us to settle it in basically a certain time parameter. I think there’s technology out there, technology that exists, that can accomplish both of those things.”
Lauscha also recognized that none of the current rule change proposals sufficiently would have remedied the Saints’ circumstance. There is no rule change on the table that would address a non-call. But, he said, that doesn’t necessarily mean the proposals will remain stagnant.
“I would say of the proposals that have been out there, I wouldn’t hang my hat on any of the ones that are out there,” Lauscha said. “There’s still a lot of discussion that has to happen over the next 24, 48 hours, so we’ll see where we go. Even though something may not have been proposed, it could be changed through discussion that occurs over the next couple of hours.”
Just as well, the matter could be tabled for the time being, until a consensus is reached on an exact rule change proposal.
“I think it certainly could be shelved until May (at the next owner’s meetings),” he said. “I would tell you that for some really big changes, oftentimes, it does go through discussions in March, discussions in May, and really, sometimes all the way up to the first week of the season. I would say if there’s no change here, I certainly wouldn’t rule out that there will be a change by the time the season starts.”
The change won’t alter the past, but the Saints are moving toward the future.
“You never really get over it, I don’t think,” Benson said of the missed call. “You understand what happened, and then move on. Because now, we’re looking forward to training camp, we’ve got the draft coming up, and so we’re looking forward to next year.
“I think that you can’t dwell in the past. You need to move forward and go into the future, and that’s what we’re doing. I mean, it was a mistake and we hope that we’re going to rectify it, but now we’re moving on.”