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Belichick on rules changes: "I don't think non-plays are good for the game"

Posted Mar 25, 2014

The Patriots head coach remarks on a number of team and league issues at the Annual Meeting.

ORLANDO – Bill Belichick can be a man of few words.

Unless it’s a topic he truly wants to discuss. Then, he could filibuster with the best of them.

Take the four rules change proposals he officially submitted to the Competition Committee – the body that accepts, rejects, and/or amends such submissions – at this year’s NFL Annual Meeting.

“All four things,” Belichick told reporters over breakfast Tuesday morning, “are things that I’ve brought up in previous years. This year it’s put in front of the [Competition Committee] membership and we’ll see how they feel about those things, and whatever the league and the membership decides to do, obviously we’ll do.”

Those four ideas are all sensible ones:

1) Raising the goal posts a few extra feet

2) Moving the extra point line of scrimmage to the 25-yard line

3) Adding fixed cameras to the end zone area to help with replay reviews

4) Allowing coaches to challenge all non-scoring plays

“I think a lot of the things that we’ve proposed are concepts,” he added, “[and I’m] not married to a specific proposal per se. [They] could definitely be amended.”

Belichick was most loquacious about the second and fourth ones listed above. All scoring plays are currently subject to review, so, Belichick is asking, for the benefit of all teams, to have every other play given the same scrutiny if a coach feels the officials made a mistake. It’s important to note that he’s not asking for an additional number of challenges to be given to coaches, just that more plays be allowed to be reviewed.

“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… 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. Every year it gets amended and it’s hard to keep it straight. I can’t get it right. We have a coach that’s responsible for that on game day to know exactly… I don’t know how the fans could possibly get it right if the coaches can’t get it right.

“For the officials themselves, it’s challenging. I think it simplifies it,” Belichick continued. “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.

“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.”

The extra point was another subject that stirred Belichick’s passions.

“I think there are other people that voiced a similar opinion to mine,” he asserted, “but again, there was no proposal from the Competition Committee for years. I mean, it’s been two decades, and the extra point conversion percentage is over 98 percent. Six of the last nine years, it’s been over 99 percent. In the last decade, there hasn’t been a field goal under 20 yards that’s been missed in 10 years.

“So, when the extra point was part of the game originally, we had players in other positions who were kicking, surfaces were a lot less ideal than what they are now. It was a tougher play. Now, we’ve made it a non-play, and I don’t think non-plays are good for the game. Just like… having over 50 percent touchback rate, I don’t think that’s an exciting play. I can’t imagine the fans waiting to see a 99 percent extra point, and then an over 50 percent touchback play. Personally, I don’t think that’s great for the game.”

He also emphasized that he’s not in favor of eliminating the point-after kick altogether.

“I just think it should be a competitive play, and the way we’ve legislated the field goal rushes, it’s almost impossible to block a kick – you can’t overload, you can’t block the center, you can’t jump, you can’t land on anybody. Unless the kicker just misses it or gets incredible horrendous protection by the offensive line, it’s a non-competitive play. I don’t understand what’s so great about that.

“I’d just like to see it more competitive. I’d certainly be open to any other suggestions that make it a more competitive play – like if you were allowed to block it, that would make it more competitive. But, you know it’s a non-competitive play, as are the touchbacks. The guy is a great kicker and makes a great kick and the touchback… I have no problem with that, but when over half the league is making touchbacks on a consistent basis, I don’t see what’s so great about that. We should reevaluate those types of kinds.”

With regard to raising the goalposts, Belichick must certainly have been influenced by a last-second kick by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker in Week 3 of the 2012 season that was a questionable call, at best. The kick was ruled good and New England lost as a result.

I think we should try to take that judgment out of the game if we can and get it right. Just like, as a coach, when you make a challenge on a sideline play or an end line play or a goal line play, I think there should be a camera there so at least you know, in your challenge, that there’s a look at it that’s a decent look.”

Serious though as he was about these ideas, the head coach did display some of his wry sense of humor at times. Asked, for instance, about the cost associated with adding cameras to the end zone areas, Belichick offered this response.

“We just spent, whatever it was, how many millions of dollars on the replay system. I mean, there’s a thousand cameras in every stadium, so that if somebody spills a beer on somebody, we have it on record, right? Maybe we could have a bake sale. Raise some money for the cameras. Do a car wash.”

And as enthusiastic as Belichick’s arguments were for this proposals, he ultimately knew that their fates were out of his hands.

“We’ll see what the membership wants to do. If nobody wants to do it, we’ll leave it the way it is. No problem. Personally and organizationally, we feel differently. But if we’re outliers, that’s fine. If there’s other support for it, fine.”

For the remainder of the meetings in Orlando (which officially conclude early Wednesday), it’s possible that any or all of these proposals could either be voted on and approved, amended and approved, rejected altogether, or even tabled until the next league meetings in May.

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