Instant replay challenges may become even more prominent in the NFL if Bill Belichick and his supporters have their way. According to ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, the Belichick-backed idea of allowing coaches’ challenges to be used on any play they believe can be overturned by indisputable video evidence didn’t have enough supporters to succeed in a vote Tuesday, but it’s gaining significant backers and it may come into effect down the road:
Per multiple sources who were present for Tuesday’s unsuccessful vote on the measure, Belichick’s position has gained significant traction.
While there’s not enough support among owners (yet) to make it happen, more and more of the coaches and General Managers believe that the two automatic replay challenges per game (three if the first two prevail) should be available for any error the coach believes can be overturned by indisputable visual evidence.
“Some people are biting tongues or shaking heads as their clubs vote against it,” said one source who was in the meetings on Tuesday. The measure failed to get an endorsement from at least 24 teams, causing it to fail.
The confusion comes in part from the lack of a sufficient explanation regarding the reasoning for the opposition to it. The NFL publicly says that it wants to get all calls right, but the NFL hasn’t adequately addressed why coaches can’t have the power to force the officials to get everything right, and not just the potentially bad calls that fall within the band of predetermined plays that can be challenged.
While some may be wary of expanding what coaches can challenge, an advantage of the Belichick proposal compared to other ideas about expanding replay is that this one shouldn’t actually expand the time of games much. This isn’t providing any extra challenges, but rather just widening the scope of what can be challenged. Yes, depending on what particular plays become challengeable (and if coaches aren’t required to be extremely specific about what they’re challenging), we may see a bit of a lag, but it really shouldn’t add a ton of time overall compared to the current challenge system.
Replay review doesn’t fix everything, of course, as we still see plenty of controversial calls made even on the replay reviews, but there is a decent argument for allowing more plays to go to the replay officials (who at least have time to think about a play and see it from different angles, as compared to on-field officials, who have to make instantaneous decisions from a limited perspective).
Even if the NFL doesn’t eventually go to Belichick’s preferred “challenge everything” model, we still could see an expansion of what it is possible to challenge. One key call that may be coming next is reviewable pass interference. The Canadian Football League made defensive pass interference reviewable ahead of the 2014 season, and the response there has largely been positive; a coach’s challenge that wound up reversing an initial non-call of DPI wound up playing a key role in the outcome of the 103rd Grey Cup Sunday, and the consensus has generally been that the right call was made (apart from some aggrieved Ottawa fans). There has already been some noise about the NFL possibly following the CFL’s lead here, so this might be the first big change to come, and perhaps a step towards Belichick’s desire to challenge everything.