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Bill Belichick has changed the way the league views replay rules


Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s proposal to allow coaches to challenge any call that any official makes was voted down by the owners this offseason. But that doesn’t mean Belichick’s ideas aren’t being taken seriously.

NFL competition committee co-chair Rich McKay said on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd” that Belichick is getting the rest of the league to think more deeply about what restrictions exist on the way referees can use replay, and why.

Coach Belichick bringing it up this year, and the way he argued it, it really does bring the discussion of instant replay -- the future of it -- into the light, if you will,” McKay said, via Mike Reiss of “I think it’s a good thing, but not enough to make us, as a league and membership, want to change it [at this time].”

McKay said the league’s coaches, executives and owners had a good debate over Belichick’s proposal.

“Pretty cool discussion. The issues behind that are pretty tremendous,” McKay said. “Does that mean you could challenge a penalty that wasn’t called? Would that not mean, basically at the end of the game, you would always end games with challenges on big plays for any penalty, even a penalty that has absolutely zero impact on the play? It would be, in our mind, a fundamental change in the game. Penalties themselves have never been reviewable and the reason they haven’t is that they are completely subjective based on the person calling them. So you’re just going to have somebody else’s subjectivity, meaning the referee, substituted for the on-field official [who made the call]. Nobody has ever gotten comfortable with that.”

The NFL’s owners may not be ready for it yet, but Belichick’s line of thinking makes a lot of sense: If we’re going to allow coaches to challenge officials’ calls, why limit which calls they can challenge? Coaches are limited to two challenges a game (three if their first two are successful), so it’s not like they can delay the game interminably by challenging everything. The whole point of replay is to get calls right, and it doesn’t make sense for the NFL to limit which incorrect calls can be corrected.