While the bulk of the conversation over labor strife in the NFL concerns the owners versus the player—as it rightly should—there is always an important third party that often finds itself in the line of fire, not explicitly on either side, though perhaps leaning more one way than the other.
I’m referring to the coaches, and as Albert Breer tells it, they got a bit tired of “getting steamrolled” at the bargaining table with the owners in recent years, especially as it concerns the passage of rule changes. He writes for Monday Morning Quarterback an example from 2010 in which the owners voted in rule changes for overtime while the coaches were on a scheduled golf outing.
But reports indicate that the coaches, and their unity in desiring change, were the principle driving force behind the new replay review rule that allows pass interference—whether called on the field or not—to be subject to review.
Reportedly, one of the key figures was the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, who directly approached the two coaches on the Competition Committee, those being the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the New Orleans Saints’ Sean Payton.
Truth be told, it wouldn’t be surprising for either of them to support the change because both of their teams suffered from officiating miscues concerning pass interference. Ultimately, the Competition Committee unanimously recommended the rule change, which was a swaying factor for the owners, who voted to approve it 31-1.
“You’re the two guys that matter to us. We want you to carry our thoughts, because you’re the two that understand”, Belichick reportedly told Tomlin and Payton. “You’re the two that have the challenge flags, you’re the two that deal with things that we have to deal with. Nobody else on that committee is really ever going to understand that, because they’re not in that position”.
While different head coaches had different ideas about how they wanted to approach making changes to the replay system, they ultimately worked out a compromise to which all 32 of them were able to consent to a yes vote.
The coaches reportedly wanted to include defenseless player and roughing the passer penalties in addition to the ‘sky judge’, but none of those made it through the Competition Committee to go before the owners for a vote—perhaps because Roger Goodell insisted that they put forth a proposal that would pass.
But it all worked out as it did, as a compromise, with many owners holding staunch anti-replay opinions coming to the table to settle for what we see now. As Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said, “We’ve come a long way from when we were sent out to the golf course”.
The fans often feels as though they have been sent out to the golf course as well when the league continually makes rules that seem to conflict with what is desired by its audience. This one felt like a concession to pretty much everybody. But it could also be just the first step.