It's preseason for the coaches, too.
That's the message Bill Belichick has passed along to his coaching staff in the early days of training camp, meaning it's a good time to shake off the rust and think about as many decision-making scenarios as possible before the beginning of the regular season.
On that list? When to challenge and when not to challenge.
"We haven’t done that in six-plus months or however long it’s been, so now that’s something that we have to get back and sharpen up on," Belichick said in a conference call on Friday. "All the things that have always been in place, you know, getting a good look at it, which plays to challenge, which ones not, how important is the play? Does that override how good of a look you have on it? We’ve talked a little bit about those things, again just . . . to be familiar with it as a coaching staff. We’ve looked at some plays just kind of ‘Would we challenge this?’ or ‘Would we challenge that one?’ Just kind of a ‘Would we, wouldn’t we’ kind of thing to just kind of get our mind thinking about it because we haven’t done it in a while."
That kind of would-we, wouldn't-we situation popped on Thursday night in New England's first preseason game with the Redskins. Early in the third quarter, it appeared as though rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may have completed a long touchdown pass to Brian Tyms, who made an acrobatic catch as he fell in the end zone.
The play was ruled incomplete and the officials called a pass-interference penalty near the five-yard line. Belichick and his staff could have challenged the incomplete ruling but chose not to. Instead they took the penalty and tried to work their way in from five yards out.
Belichick explained that since the pass was ruled incomplete, it was not a scoring play. Since it was not a scoring play, it could not be automatically reviewed by the officials. That left the choice up to him.
"Yeah, I mean, we possibly would have thought about challenging it," Belichick said. "I personally didn’t get a good look at it at the game. It was just too far down the field and I couldn’t tell. Looking at the play today on the coaches tape, there’s a couple pretty good shots of it and it’s a close play. I'm not sure – it looked like the ball might have hit the ground, but I didn’t look at the TV copy, so you probably saw better than I did. We really didn’t get a good look at it. We thought about challenging it but we just didn’t have a good enough look at it to challenge it."
Regardless of the result, Belichick was happy that kind of play occurred. It gave the Patriots coaching staff a chance to work on something they may not necessarily come across in a typical training camp practice.
"That was actually a good situation that came up on our end as well," Belichick said. "Just from a staff standpoint. But without a good look at that play, I think it would be a hard one to challenge. And we just didn’t see the TV shot, which I still haven’t seen, so I don’t know if that would have shown enough or not. But certainly what we saw live wasn’t enough."