Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a simple solution for the NFL’s often impenetrable rules about which plays can be reviewed on instant replay and which plays can’t: Just let coaches challenge everything.
Belichick notes that coaches only get two challenges anyway (and a third if the firs two are successful), so it’s not like coaches could throw their red challenge flags after every play. As Belichick sees it, if a coach is confident that replay will show indisputable evidence that the officials got something wrong on the field, that coach should be allowed to initiate a replay review.
“When you have two challenges, I don’t see anything wrong with the concept of ‘you can challenge any two plays that you want,'” Belichick said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN. “I understand that judgment calls are judgment calls, but to say that an important play can’t be reviewed, I don’t think that’s really in the spirit of trying to get everything right and making sure the most important plays are officiated properly.
“If you get a situation where they call a guy for being offside, and you don’t think he was offside and you’re willing to use one of your challenges on that to let them go back and take a look at it — I understand if the evidence isn’t conclusive that the call stands. If it is [conclusive] than they’d overturn it.
“If it’s offensive holding, if you think one of the offensive linemen tackles your guy as he’s rushing the quarterback, and the ball hasn’t been thrown, they go back and look at it and if it’s that egregious of a violation they would make a call. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t. We have to live with that anyway but now it’s only on certain plays and certain situations.
“It’s kind of confusing for me as to which plays are, and which plays aren’t challengeable. I’m sure it’s confusing to the fans to know what they all are. There are multiple pages explaining what you can and can’t challenge. Then you have the officials come over to you in a controversial type of play and say, ‘Well, you can challenge this, or you can’t challenge it’ which is helpful. But I’m just saying the whole idea of simplifying the game and trying to get the important plays right, I wouldn’t have any problem if any play was open to a challenge, understanding that if it’s not conclusive, then it’s not conclusive and the ruling on the field would stand. That’s the way it is anyway. You have to make it a lot simpler in my mind.”
As I wrote last week, there are a lot of obviously bad calls that could easily be corrected if only the referee were allowed to use replay. For instance, when Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk blatantly grabbed and twisted Adrian Peterson’s facemask before forcing Peterson to fumble, the play was automatically reviewed because it was a turnover — but the officials weren’t allowed to call the obvious facemask they had missed, even though it was right there in front of them on the video monitor, because facemasking isn’t reviewable.
Members of the competition committee have said in the past that they don’t want judgment calls like holding and pass interference to be subject to replay reviews, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense considering that the league office uses replay reviews during the week to grade officials on those same judgment calls. If replays are going to be used to say whether an official got a call right or wrong during the week, why not let the referee use the replay right then and there when the call is made to get it right at the time?
Belichick makes a good point. Instead of byzantine rules that allow certain elements of certain calls to be reviewed, while forcing referees to ignore other things they see on replay, it would make more sense to simply tell every coach that he has two challenges, and he can challenge any call that he thinks replay can correct.