Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who often monotonously mutters his way through media availability in order to say as little as possible, shared a candid and intriguing opinion on Tuesday that coaches should be able to use their two (three, if they get the first two right) per game replay challenges on anything they want.
It makes sense, even though Belichick’s proposed system won’t be adopted any time soon. The league permits replay review only as to the specific situations listed in Rule 15, Section 9, Article 4 of the rule book.
As it relates to the play that has gotten the most discussion and attention over the past week, replay review wasn’t available to throw the flag that should have been thrown in real time. While, for example, the question of whether 11 men were on the field at the time of the snap is reviewable, the rules do not make the question of whether a coach was in the white stripe (or, as the case may be, on the field) reviewable.
In the past, the NFL has expanded replay review after experiencing a situation in which replay wasn’t available. For example, when a Browns-Ravens game in 2007 involved a disputed field goal call, the NFL made field goal attempts subject to replay review for 2008.
That’s unlikely to happen in this specific case. As one league source explained it to PFT, it would be nearly impossible to keep coaches behind the play out of the white stripe. Opening that up to replay review would, in the source’s opinion, create more issues than it would solve.
In the short term, the source may be right. Over the long haul, however, enforcing the rule via replay review would ensure that coaches and players would treat the white stripe as the equivalent of the field of play, allowing the white stripe to act as the buffer zone that the league presumably wants it to be.