Billick wants replay system to be revised

Forging instant replay permanently into the NFL landscape has been recommended by the influential competition committee.

And a proposal to grant coaches a third replay challenge if the first two tries are successful will also be voted upon by owners this week at the annual league meetings at The Breakers.

The NFL's current format has been in place for five seasons. Now, replay looks like it will be here to stay albeit with a slightly revised system.

Last season, Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick established himself as an outspoken opponent of the replay system format. He bluntly suggested after a touchdown pass to tight end Todd Heap was negated during a win over the Denver Broncos that the entire system should be dumped.

Clarifying his position, Billick said he's an advocate of instant replay, just not in this configuration.

"I'm not in favor of dumping the system if we're willing to amend it," Billick said. "My biggest concern is with the replay system, the technology and the process. I think where we're getting into a problem with the replay system is that it was intended to remove the egregious error: Vinny Testaverde being awarded a touchdown on the 1-yard line.

"I'm not sure that is always what happens. Where my frustration lies is that there hasn't been a real movement to adjust instant replay since we put it in. My confidence that we will confront this aggressively is not high."

The last extension of replay covered three years through the 2003 season. Failed challenges cost teams a timeout.

All proposals are subject to approval by three-quarters of the 32 owners.

Competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons' general manager, said the committee voted unanimously to approve replay and the three-challenge modification.

Typically, the owners tend to follow the committee's recommendations.

"Hopefully, we'll be successful in that so that we don't have to come back and discuss this in the future," McKay said. "We think that it gives the teams a little more flexibility to use the challenges when they see fit, but it still requires that they use them on big plays because there is only a total of three."

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome is a member of the competition committee, and Billick said he has spoken with Newsome at length about the replay issue.

"I've expressed my opinion," Billick said. "I'm reasonably comfortable that they're going to put an apparatus in that will allow us to address it as we go forward.

"This is not a criticism of the officials. This is an affirmation of the job they do. I believe the officials have been right, based on our league's analysis, on 90 percent of the challenges. That's pretty good."

However, one concern often cited by critics of replay is the amount of time it takes to review plays. McKay said that games were an average of 90 seconds shorter in 2003 than they were in 2002 because the television networks began to take commercial breaks during reviews.

Billick said he's far less concerned about the time it takes to review a play than getting the play reviewed correctly.

"I have a great deal of faith that the officials can identify the egregious error in the normal flow of the game if they're given the proper view of the plays in question," Billick said. "We will never eliminate them all. We can eliminate a substantial portion of them and still not slow down the game.

"I just don't want us to create what I think is a dog-and-pony show via the challenge system. I'm an advocate of instant replay, but I think it needs major revision."

One of Billick's major complaints with the challenge system is his belief that there's a lack of communication and coordination between the coaches and the officials overseeing replay.

"We, as coaches, have no idea what the official is looking at in the video," Billick said. "We've been told that what's on the big board may indeed be a view that's not available to officials. Even if something happens right in front of you and you're confident that you know what happened, we put ourselves at risk.

"We have no idea if the view they receive is going to substantiate that. I think we're putting the officials and the teams in a tough circumstance at the end of the day."

Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times.

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