Either the NFL’s former head of officiating doesn’t know what constitutes a catch, or one of the NFL’s referees doesn’t know what constitutes a catch.
During today’s Panthers-Browns game, Carolina’s Brandon LaFell tiptoed along the sideline and attempted to catch a pass, falling out of bounds and securing the ball just as he did. The ball moved as LaFell went to the ground, but LaFell appeared to get both feet down and hold on.
Panthers coach John Fox challenged the call on the field, and FOX’s Mike Pereira, who has done an outstanding job this season analyzing referees’ decisions and correctly predicting how a replay review would turn out, was asked to chime in on whether LaFell controlled the ball.
“I think he did,” Pereira said. “I think he maintained control of the ball. The ball’s always going to move a little bit, and you will actually see the ball move a little bit when he hits the ground, but moving is not loss of possession.”
Referee Jeff Triplette, however, saw it differently. Triplette reviewed the replay for what seemed an eternity and then announced, “He makes the catch but loses control of the ball at the sideline, so it’s an incomplete pass.”
The Panthers technically won the challenge because they were also challenging the ruling on the field that LaFell had stepped out of bounds and then illegally touched the ball in bounds, but what’s really interesting here is that Pereira and Triplette viewed the same replays and came to two different conclusions.
The fact that an NFL referee and the man whose job for years was to oversee the NFL’s referees can look at the same footage and disagree on the correct ruling is the latest example this season of how the league’s rules on what constitutes a catch are misunderstood not just by fans, but by the people whose jobs require them to understand the rules.
That’s a serious problem, one that the league’s competition committee needs to address.