Tuesday's conference call with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick included some thought-provoking discussion that perhaps finds its way to a competition committee meeting in the near future.
It started when Belichick was asked about a fourth-quarter play in the team's 34-31 win over the Texans, as it appeared that Texans defensive back Josh Victorian committed a fair-catch interference penalty against Julian Edelman.
The game was tied at 31 at the time and the Texans were punting to the Patriots from their own 20-yard line. There was no call, but it wasn't a big factor because the punt sailed out of bounds without making contact with anyone and the Patriots took over at their 33-yard line and advanced to kick what turned out to be a game-winning 53-yard field goal with 3:15 remaining.
Had things not turned out as well for the Patriots, that apparent fair-catch interference could have been a bigger topic of postgame discussion. On Tuesday's conference call, Belichick was asked if he sends a play like that to the NFL office for clarification.
He responded by explaining the general process in which coaches communicate with NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino, but said he couldn't get into specifics about the specific play. Speaking more from a general perspective, however, Belichick said:
"Plays like that beg the whole question on what is reviewable and what isn't reviewable. We only have two challenges and if you potentially get a play like that, which can be a significant play ... Had we touched the ball and [the Texans] recovered, it would have been reviewed and the review would have been part of the touching but not part of the interference. There is a lot of gray area there as well as some sticky things on what is reviewable and what isn't, what can be changed and what couldn't. That's probably a question for another day, but it certainly brings up a lot of other questions."
Later, Belichick was asked if it was correct that he'd support a proposal that allowed coaches to challenge everything (including penalties like fair-catch interference or even a pass-interference call in the end zone at the end of a Carolina game).
"When you have two challenges, I don't see anything wrong with the concept of 'you can challenge any two plays that you want.' 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," he answered.
"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.
"It's kind of confusing for me as to which plays are, and which plays aren't challengeable. 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. I think it would make it a lot simpler in my mind."