PHOENIX, Ariz. — Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown had no problem being the lone dissenting voice against revised instant replay rules at the NFL’s annual meeting this week.
“Well I’ve been in that position before. I just vote with my conscience and how I see it. I’m not trying to be offensive. I understand if someone else doesn’t want to go my way,” he told a small group of local reporters.
The owners voted 31-1 to allow offensive and defensive pass interference to be subject to a coach’s challenge, even if there was initially no flag thrown on the play. A booth review can be initiated on such plays in the final two minutes of the half.
Brown and his father, the late Paul Brown, have been against major instant replay changes since it was adopted in the 1970s, and his stance hasn’t changed much over the years.
“The reason that we are against it is that it interrupts the game. It changes the character of the game in my mind,” he said. “I think it’s in some ways sort of odd to see people all sitting there waiting for somebody in New York to tell them it is or it isn’t. I’d rather just play the game.”
Brown said he doesn’t like drawing the game out with reviews because it interrupts the natural ebbs and flows of things. He particularly took issue with a judgment call now being reviewable.
“When they put it in they were smart enough to restrict it more than it is today,” he said. “And it was supposed to be used only when the play had a big impact on the game. Otherwise you weren’t supposed to use it. Well it evolved over time and now they use it in all kinds of situations. I don’t think that’s good for the game. It is the fact that there’s going to be officiating error, but it’s also the fact that instant replay doesn’t always correct it. It actually compounds the problem on occasion.”
The new rules, which will be implemented on a trial basis for the next year, could represent a fundamental shift in the game.
Brown and Bengals vice president Troy Blackburn acknowledged the public’s fervor to see rule changes after the outcry following the NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints. There was significant debate among the NFL’s Competition Committee, which eventually voted 8-0 in favor of the change, to get the proposal just right.
“I think one factor they felt pressured by was ‘Shouldn’t we do something?’ Otherwise New Orleans might blow up in smoke,” Brown said of the Competition Committee. “The feeling was it was time to show a concern enough for some of this stuff to at least try. I think this will be well received in certainly New Orleans, I think it will be well received in a number of different cities.”
Added Blackburn: “I think there was a feeling that the public wanted something done because there was such an inequity that arose. But whether there is a way to address what fans really want, which is perfect officiating, because we want perfect officiating too, but can you really get that? We’ll see how it goes.”
Brown said he doesn’t think implementing these new rules will be any sort of fix.
“There is no answer that, ‘Well, we’re going to have instant replay and there won’t be any more bad pass interference calls.’ I don’t think so, but we’ll see,” he said.
Brown and Blackburn said the Competition Committee was at one point in a 4-4 tie over whether creating a penalty via a challenge was fundamentally good or bad for the game.
“Some of the senior members of the Competition Committee had concerns for historical reasons about being able to initiate a foul via replay,” Blackburn said. ” And then you have all the complexities when you get into it. What if there was an offsetting offensive foul? So there was a hold on the offensive line on a defensive pass interference play. And what they said is they’re going to review the entire play. So that would not necessarily clean up the way everybody thinks.”
The Bengals pointed out being able that challenging a pass interference call could have potentially helped them against the Steelers last season when Pittsburgh scored the game-winning touchdown on a play that arguably should have been flagged for offensive pass interference. But that doesn’t change their overall stance.
“The issue that is always out there is why do you choose some penalties and not others?” Blackburn said. “So I think Mike and his dad had the position that, ‘Just accept it as part of the game and take the negative tradeoff of time, interruption of flow. There’s a natural cadence and rhythm to the game. Respect that, because you’re never going to be perfect.'”