Saints’ Sean Payton criticizes inconsistent NFL officiating, taunting: ‘We have to improve. Everyone deserves better’

Sean Payton is a supporter of the NFL’s new taunting rules, but he isn’t happy with how the league has implemented them so far.

Payton — who used to be a member of the NFL competition committee, which agreed upon 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 how NFL referees are calling it.

“I think it’s been over-officiated,” Payton told Patrick. “I sat in on the discussions and I don’t think any of us that discussed it saw it where it 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’s got to be eventually bright.”

So, what does Payton think should constitute a taunting flag? He specifically referenced players who “stand over players” or “crawl over players with their crotch,” but generally, his method is even more simplistic than that.

“If you and I watch a game and we say just sit next to each other and turn to each other and we say, ‘Taunting,’ that’s probably a taunting foul,” Payton said.

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However, that is the exact challenge with the rule, in Payton’s mind. The calls are subjective and vary from person to person and official to official.

“Therein lies the challenge of communication, as to, ‘Hey, this is I’m going to show you 50 clips and you tell me which ones you think should be called taunting,'” Payton said. “It’s no different than roughing the passer.”

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However, as Payton noted later in the interview, roughing the passer calls are another can of worms. There a questionable one that was called against the Saints in their loss to the Titans, and that prompted Payton to express his dismay with the state of the NFL’s officiating right now.

“We’ve seen it happen each weekend with the officiating,” Payton said. “That’s the hardest thing to get past is when they’re not up to speed.”

Payton also referenced what happened to the Bears against the Steelers, when Cassius Marsh was whistled for a taunting call that few agreed with. The NFL has doubled down and backed up Tony Corrente’s call, 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.”

But Payton doesn’t blame the officials for the problem, per se. He thinks it’s more of a league issue.

“Those problems start at the top, not at the 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 that. Either way, Payton has one goal in mind for officiating crews.

“We have to improve,” he said. “Everyone watching and participating and involved in it deserves better.”

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