Bill Belichick’s Perfectly Reasonable Point About Making All Plays Reviewable

  • Eric Goldschein

bill belichick

If you’ve ever watched an NFL game, you know that there are a fuck-ton of rules. You have to line up in certain formations. You can’t touch certain guys at certain points on the field. You must be behind a certain line in order to throw a pass forward, and your pass turns into a hand-off if that person is behind you, and you can’t lead with your head when you tackle that guy, and so on.

It can be confusing for newcomers to the game — and even old-timers — to grasp all the nuances of the sport. One thing that trips up almost everyone is the idea that not all plays are “reviewable” by the referees. If a guy makes a close catch by the sideline, the opposing coach can challenge the play if he thinks the player may have stepped out of bounds first. But holding? That’s off limits.

Why? The official reason is because that’s a judgment call, and you could spend all day reviewing judgment calls and never play the game. The unofficial reason is because it makes the game more difficult to understand and more likely that your non-sports loving friends and family members stop watching and leave you alone already.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots proposed changing this rule to make all plays (except scores, which are automatically reviewed) available for challenges. Belichick, who around these parts is usually derided for being a cold, awkward monster, made an excellent argument for changing the rule. Here’s part of the transcript of his answer, via WEEI (emphasis ours):

“I’€™m not proposing more challenges. All I’€™m saying is, as a coach, if you want to challenge a play, I think you should be able to challenge it. And why does it have to be limited to, I don’€™t know, there’€™s four or five pages in the rules book of plays that can be challenged, and now this year there are more proposals to amend that probably because of one or two plays that happened in the league last year…

“I think it simplifies it. And I understand it’€™s a judgment call. So, if I throw a challenge on an offensive holding play and they look at it, and they don’€™t think it’€™s holding, I lose the challenge. But if it’€™s an egregious play, I don’€™t see why it should not be allowed to be challenged when it affects the outcome of the game. I think we can find multiple, multiple examples of plays for example where the offense isn’€™t set, that if the officials could look at it, it’€™s very clear that they’€™re not set, that would nullify what subsequently happened. I can think of many situations where that would have affected the outcome of the game.

“So, why plays like that can’€™t be challenged, why other plays can’€™t be challenged, I think is … if we fundamentally want to try to get the games right and the plays right, then I don’€™t see why they should be excluded. Even though they’€™re judgment calls, but if you’€™re willing to use a timeout on that, I think you should be able to do that. It’€™s not going to slow the game down. It’€™s no different than if you challenged another play. So, I’€™m not looking for more challenges or anything else, just if you think it was a call that was missed, that you should have the opportunity to have the officials review it. That’€™s all. I don’€™t know if anybody agrees with that or not, but that’€™s the proposal.”

Nobody wants an already 3-plus hour football game to run any longer. But that’s not what’s being proposed here. Plus, even more important is catching and correcting incorrect or missed calls that can greatly alter the outcome of a game.

Unfortunately, Belichick and reasonable people everywhere did not get their way:

Alrighty then. The league did vote for the “Navorro Bowman rule,” however, which ensures that the league won’t look ridiculous again when a guy clearly recovers a loose ball but the refs screw up the call. Typical.

[BI Sports]

Photo via Getty