Bill Belichick Calls for Changes to Replay System, Says Coaches Should Be Able to Challenge Penalties

Bill BelichickThe officiating hasn’t been quite as bad as when the replacement officials had control, but it certainly hasn’t been good this season.

Officials in a number of games botched calls over the weekend, including crucial errors that helped decide both the Eagles-Cardinals game and Giants-Redskins game on Sunday. The mistakes have led TV broadcasts to keep a more keen eye on some of the calls on the field and more emphasis put on gaffes.

The Patriots have fallen victim to a few missed calls and phantom penalties on the year, which caused Bill Belichick to finally take a stand on the issue on Tuesday. Belichick was asked about some of the poor officiating and the review system as a whole during his weekly conference call on Tuesday, and the legendary coach had some interesting thoughts on the issue.

Belichick focused on the idea of upholding the integrity of the game by trying to have every game officiated both effectively and correctly, which included calling for coaches to have the authority to challenge any call on the field, including penalties.

“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. “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.”

Belichick even offered up a specific examples of offside and holding penalties to explain how adjusting the challenge rules to include penalties would benefit both the teams playing and the game.

“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] then 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.”

Belichick’s also noted how complicated the challenges rules can be, even for a veteran head coach like himself, noting that the only way to improve the system would be to just simplify it.

“It’s kind of confusing for me as to which plays are, and which plays aren’t challengeable,” he said. “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.”

There has been talk around the league that the competition committee may look into allowing the challenge of penalties next season. Such changes couldn’t be made until the offseason, though, meaning Belichick and the rest of the league will just have to endure the current rules at least through the end of this season, if not longer.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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