The changes to instant replay instituted this week offered a stunning turnaround from the league's long-held belief in stiff-arming broad changes. Perhaps more surprising was that 31 of the 32 owners approved of the change, providing a clear mandate to the league.
"Well, I've been in that position before," Brown told reporters Wednesday from the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, via ESPN's Katherine Terrell. "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."
On Tuesday, owners approved a rule to allow offensive pass interference and defensive pass interference to be subject to a coach's challenge -- even if no flag was thrown on the play -- before the final two minutes of the half. A booth review can occur on such plays in the final two minutes of each half.
Brown and his father, the late Paul Brown, before him have long been against replay, arguing that the benefits of review are outweighed by the disruption to the flow of the contest.
"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."
Anyone who has followed the Bengals would barely bat an eye seeing Brown as the lone dissenter in a 31-1 vote in favor of rule change championed by coaches, approved by Commissioner Roger Goodell and clamored for by fans alike. The Bengals ownership has a well-worn history of voting against amendments to NFL rules, especially where replay was involved.
"When they put it in, they were smart enough to restrict it more than it is today," Brown 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 speed at which replay can be conducted today should mitigate some of those concerns -- and the league could certainly do a better job of expediting obvious calls. As Sean Payton pointed out after the rule was passed, keeping coaches' challenges to two while expanding replay doesn't add more stoppages, and could actually keep coaches from blowing their challenges on dumb decisions early in the contests.
Regardless of how Brown feels about the change, the league will move forward with the expansion of replay for at least one season. With Brown unlikely to change his long-held stance, we'll see if other owners agree with him after the test year.