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Owners should override Competition Committee on Calvin Johnson rule

calvin-johnson-detroit-lions-04dd2d63b84a684e_large AP

As expected, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay explained to the media on Wednesday that the league’s rule-making body won’t recommend to ownership any substantive changes to the rule regarding pass completions while the receiver is going to the ground.

That’s why the owners need to take the bull by the ball (the football, not the other kind) and come up with a rule that will allow consistent and easy application by the officials, and that will mesh with reasonable fan expectations.

Here’s what McKay said regarding the Competition Committee’s decision to stand pat:

“We spent an awful lot of time on catch-no catch. It’s not the first time that we’ve spent a lot of time on it. We seem to do it a lot. Let me give you a couple of things that we started at. We started in Indianapolis going through it with the committee itself and just watching the plays and asking is that a catch or not a catch – let’s go back through the rules. We came out with the fact that we all see an inherent conflict between what goes on with respect to the scrutiny provided by replay or slow motion and what goes on in live action. I think all of us came out at a point that we have to make sure that we write the rules for what is officiated on the field at full speed in live action, and not what gets looked at in super slow motion. I think what will come out and what will be written in our report is that we’ll confirm the rule that’s really been there for more than 70 years, which basically says there are three elements to a catch: number one, you’ve got to secure control of the ball in your hands; number two, you’ve got to maintain that control when you have two feet down or any body part other than your hands; and number three, which will be the clarification that we’ll add to the book, we’ll say you must control the ball long enough after A and B, meaning you’ve caught it cleanly and you’ve got two feet down or a body part, and after those two elements then you’ve got to maintain control long enough, and we’re going to use the language we’ve had in the book for a long time, in which you would have the ability to perform any act common to the game. It doesn’t mean you have to perform the act, but it’s an element of time and you’ve got to write it in such a way where people understand that it’s not just bang-bang and that’s a catch.

“So in our mind, and I think in the coaches subcommittee’s mind when we went back and watched the tape with them, if you asked me the simple question of would Calvin Johnson be a catch in 2011, the answer in our minds would be no. You still wouldn’t have those three elements having been maintained, especially because in his act he is going to the ground in the act of catching a pass, and the way the language will be written this year to make sure that people understand it, it will say if the player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass with or without contact by an opponent, he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. So that’s a lot of verbiage, but that’s kind of how we look at it. There are three elements to the catch and there’s the element of if you’re going to the ground you’re going to have to maintain it throughout the process of contacting the ground. So we looked at I can’t tell you how many plays that probably go back over the span of three or four years just to make sure we’re consistent, and the one thing we’ve come away with is you have to put some responsibility on the receiver and that responsibility is maintaining possession throughout contacting the ground, because otherwise you’re going to have a real issue with respect to how replay conflicts with live action officiating. We’ve got a long part of our report that will be written up that deals with those two issues, so maybe I didn’t explain it as clearly as I could but I think it’ll be written in the report.”

Based on the first paragraph, it sounds like the Competition Committee will potentially be making the process more complicated by codifying the vague “second act” exception that was used, despite not appearing in the rule book, during Super Bowl XLIV, when Saints receiver Lance Moore caught the ball while falling down near the goal line, reached the ball across the plane while falling, lost possession of the ball upon hitting the ground, and ultimately was awarded two points via a ruling that the catch was valid.  Those two points put the Saints up by seven instead of five late in the game.  Knowing that a Colts touchdown could have merely tied the game instead of taking the lead may have made Saints cornerback Tracy Porter more inclined to jump the route that produced a backbreaking touchdown in New Orleans’ eventual victory.

Though the owners have in the past refused to adopt rule changes recommended by the Competition Committee, it’s unusual if not unprecedented (as Eagles president Joe Banner said during today’s PFT Live) for the owners to interject their own rule change that the Competition Committee specifically decided not to suggest.

Well, there’s a first time for everything.

We see two potential approaches.  First, the owners should adopt a rule that recognizes a catch as a valid completion if the receiver lands with both feet on the ground, or a knee, leg, butt, torso, elbow, shoulder, or head touching the turf, regardless of what happens as the rest of his body hits the deck.  Alternatively, and preferably, the owners should go back to the rule that applied before Bert Emanuel had possession in both hands but the ball touched the ground and the league thereafter decided that under certain circumstances the ball would be allowed to touch the ground as long as it didn’t move.

So what’s wrong with requiring the player to catch the ball and to not allow it to touch the ground at any point in the process of making the catch?  If the player is going to the ground while catching the ball, the ball should not touch the ground.  If it does, the catch is not a catch.  Though some may think that it’s not “fair” to take away a good catch simply because the pigskin grazes the grass, at least there would be no room for ambiguity or inconsistency.

At a time when the owners are surely feeling like they don’t have control over much of anything, this would be a great opportunity for them to take charge of their game — and to give the fans a clear rule that widely will be regarded not only as fair but sufficiently clear to allow folks who in varying degrees of intoxication to understand when a catch is a catch, and when it isn’t.

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33 Responses to “Owners should override Competition Committee on Calvin Johnson rule”
  1. commandercornpone says: Mar 16, 2011 9:46 PM

    as usual the lions got screwed.

  2. chucka2 says: Mar 16, 2011 9:48 PM

    This is ridiculous! There is no doubt that was a catch! This BS is ruining the darn gane!

    Chuck A

  3. 1liondriven says: Mar 16, 2011 9:49 PM

    They should overrule them or get the league to sign a waiver that indemnifies the team from any liability in regards to health and well being of the refs.

    If this happens again, I hope they’re not playing in Detroit because somebody could get seriously hurt.

  4. geeeeemen says: Mar 16, 2011 9:56 PM

    Lengthy article but I agree in that leaving the rule the way it is is the wrong move. I dont know what the owners can do really, but the competition committee is really ‘dropping the ball’ with this one.

    Thumbs down for corny pun.

  5. 1liondriven says: Mar 16, 2011 10:10 PM

    They should overrule them or get the league to sign a waiver that indemnifies the team from any liability in regards to health and well being of the refs.

    This is not a threat, but If this happens again, I hope they’re not playing in Detroit because somebody could get seriously hurt, and it won’t be a black eye for Detroit it will be a black eye for the NFL.

    Lets be honest, this is the Motorcity…not San Francisco, in the D we lead with our chin and fight with our heart. We could care less about another black eye.

  6. realfann says: Mar 16, 2011 10:12 PM

    Surely the problem is with a catch that starts one side of the goal line and finishes on the other.

    Calvin Johnson would have been awarded a TD if he had started the catch in the field of play then then maintained possession as the ball crossed the plane. Anything that happened after that point (ball placed on ground etc) would not have mattered. A TD would have been awarded by rule.

  7. burkem325 says: Mar 16, 2011 10:14 PM

    It wasn’t a catch! Ball hit the ground and popped out. The rule book is clear as crystal to me.

  8. batmanofpintucky says: Mar 16, 2011 10:14 PM

    Cry Lions fans cry

  9. johnnycash19 says: Mar 16, 2011 10:16 PM

    “number two, you’ve got to maintain that control when you have two feet down or any body part other than your hands;”
    “in which you would have the ability to perform any act common to the game.”
    ———-
    So when Calvin Johnson had 2 feet, a thigh and his ass on the ground, while holding the ball firmly with one hand, while bracing his fall with the other hand, he didn’t have possession nor perform a “common act”? I don’t know about you but I think holding a ball in one hand while bracing your fall with the second is a “second/ common football act”.

  10. realfann says: Mar 16, 2011 10:27 PM

    “folks who in varying degrees of intoxication to understand when a catch is a catch”

    So the refs are drunk?

    Explains a lot.

  11. pestilence1972 says: Mar 16, 2011 10:28 PM

    I still think that a rule that simply asks the question: is it a catch or not makes more sense than all these rules. Either way, it is subjective. So let’s just have the ref admit a judgement call as opposed to trying to leverage subjective interpretation of lame rules that make no common sense.

  12. heyooooh says: Mar 16, 2011 10:37 PM

    I fell asleep after “Let me give you a couple of things that we started at.”

  13. johnjosephyossarian says: Mar 16, 2011 10:57 PM

    So I know I’m in the horrible minority, but put me in the group that doesn’t think the rule needed to be changed. I saw a guy drop the ball at the last second.

  14. bleedsoe9mm says: Mar 16, 2011 11:04 PM

    I have no idea what a catch is anymore !

  15. Deb says: Mar 16, 2011 11:22 PM

    That was a catch. But the issue is bigger than one play. Eliminate challenge flags, sideline “hoods,” and nitpicking nonsense. Give us simple rules and booth replay officials who instantly check everything. Bad calls shouldn’t stand because a coach didn’t have time to throw a flag or was out of challenges. How stupid is that? No one cares if officials apologize or players are fined after the game. Get it right when it counts!

  16. sfsaintsfan says: Mar 16, 2011 11:51 PM

    “the vague “second act” exception that was used, despite not appearing in the rule book, during Super Bowl XLIV, when Saints receiver Lance Moore caught the ball while falling down near the goal line, reached the ball across the plane while falling, lost possession of the ball upon hitting the ground, and ultimately was awarded two points via a ruling that the catch was valid.”

    Mike, you continue to miss the point on this play. Lance Moore caught the ball, reached the ball across the goal line while in the air and only after scoring the 2 point conversion was the ball knocked out of his hands by a defender. He DID NOT lose possession of the ball upon hitting the ground!!! He caught the ball, made a football move with the ball, a “second act”, and he did not lose possession of the ball until after he scored the 2 point conversion and the ball was knocked out of his hands by a defender. The ground had nothing to do with it.

    I do think the Megatron catch was a catch for what it is worth, but I also see the distinction. Did you really go to law school and pass the bar?

  17. lightninglucci says: Mar 16, 2011 11:54 PM

    @realfann says:

    “Surely the problem is with a catch that starts one side of the goal line and finishes on the other.

    Calvin Johnson would have been awarded a TD if he had started the catch in the field of play then then maintained possession as the ball crossed the plane. Anything that happened after that point (ball placed on ground etc) would not have mattered. A TD would have been awarded by rule.”

    A lot of people seem to think this, but this is not true. This rule applies as-is anywhere on the field, regardless of the end zone.

    Because the rule declares the catch invalid and the pass incomplete, he never technically had possession. And by “possession” I mean all three things: control in hands, correct body part(s) down, and whatever that “third element” is that they can’t seem to adequately explain.

    So, no matter where he starts that catch and no matter where it ends with that so-called “drop”, it’s still all considered incomplete. No touchdown. No gain of X yards. Bottom line, no catch.

  18. lionsfan14 says: Mar 16, 2011 11:58 PM

    can i get a thumbs up for td catch and thumbs down for no catch

  19. klunge says: Mar 16, 2011 11:59 PM

    johnjosephyossarian says:
    Mar 16, 2011 10:57 PM
    So I know I’m in the horrible minority, but put me in the group that doesn’t think the rule needed to be changed. I saw a guy drop the ball at the last second.
    ————————————————

    Yeah, and there’s a reason you’re in the minority. Watch the several seconds BEFORE the “last second” and it’s plain as day it was a catch.
    1. Caught ball with TWO HANDS, and had both feet on ground in the end zone.
    2. Starts to fall backwards (taking about 3 steps), palming the ball in his giant right hand (full control).
    3. Lands on his butt (completely inbounds) using left hand to brace himself (still controls ball).
    4. Rolls over to push himself up, using the ball, which he leaves deliberately on the ground as he is convinced he made game-winning catch.

  20. ursushorribilis says: Mar 17, 2011 12:12 AM

    Come now, there were many other instances where the “no catch” rule was enforced……it is a good rule: Have the receivers COMPLETE the act and then HOT DOG IT…..

    Premature HOTDOGGINIT is just STUPID!

  21. irchs1963 says: Mar 17, 2011 12:41 AM

    Why establish a Competition Committee….. only to have Ownership ‘overide’ unpopular decisions made by that Committee.

  22. mayfieldroadboy says: Mar 17, 2011 1:01 AM

    What was his spiel about “live” action and super “slow motion”? Does he recommend that all those nail-biting reviews in super, super-slow motion be eliminated for what can be determined by the naked eye in real time? Sounds like a good argument for doing away with instant replay. And getting refs who have no bias in either team.

  23. bucfandango says: Mar 17, 2011 1:03 AM

    Spoken like a true Lawyer. I didn’t understand a single word of McKay’s statement. He now qualifies to be a Whitehouse Press Secretary.

    Can we also clarify what constitutes a Lion’s pass interference penalty?

  24. mayfieldroadboy says: Mar 17, 2011 1:03 AM

    Oops! I stand corrected: the last statement should read “and getting refs who have no bias for either team.

  25. ttommytom says: Mar 17, 2011 1:07 AM

    What counts in the air as one crosses the goal line with the ball is by definition apples to oranges as per
    the rest of the field. The break the plane is BS if Calvin’s catch is (and was) ruled incomplete. HE BROKE THE PLANE.

    Calvin needs to learn the rules beyond what he KNOWS (and we all know) is a catch. Just take the ball with you as far as you can. Take the ball home and drop it on your mantle if need be.

    We all know it was a catch and those in the know do not know how to address it regarding the breaking of the plane of the goal. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS…

  26. ttommytom says: Mar 17, 2011 1:09 AM

    I should have said this:

    How did he not break the plane?

    It is that simple…

  27. 1liondriven says: Mar 17, 2011 1:35 AM

    THE RULE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEN APPLIED TO CALVINS CATCH.

    Calvin did not go to the ground to make the catch…in fact it was the complete opposite.

    Calvin jumped up towards the sky!!!! Not the ground.

    He jumped up, caught the ball with both hands establishing control as he came back down to earth, he landed with both feet on the ground. He then twisted slightly and went to the ground with the ball still in his control and then took one hand off the ball, while still maintaining control of the ball, and reached out with his free hand to control the ball on the ground. NOTE…AFTER he (ass) was on the ground and still in control of the ball he started to GET UP off the ground and was going to use the ball to help himself up when the ball came out of his hand. He was on the ground twice with control, 1 on both feet, 1 on his ass with control.
    The play was over…he was getting UP from the ground when the ball came out. What more do you have to do pose for a picture? (Last line credit; T kowalski)

    Probably the worst call in football.

    The rule should not apply on this catch, that’s why they won’t change it!

  28. abuckeye4ever says: Mar 17, 2011 2:44 AM

    I agree its a catch but there is one thing no one ever talks about the play. Calvin Johnson has both feet down then one hand down and then the fingers are out of balance before the ball touches the ground. So, he made the catch, both feet down, crossed the goal line and went out of balance before the ball touched the ground. What I hate is that a RB or WR can just extend the ball over the goal line and go out of balance or have the ball knocked out at that moment of crossing the goal line and still get a TD with out total control of the ball. Now go figure ???

  29. abuckeye4ever says: Mar 17, 2011 2:52 AM

    A second point about the RULES from Mr. McKay. the RULES CLEARLY STATES which I am quoting what Mr. McKay said above is “you’ve got to secure control of the ball in your hands;” . Ok then, whoever makes a catch ONE HANDED then it is not a catch. He clearly states in YOUR HANDS !!! Does BOTH HANDS mean that you CLEARLY have the ball in POSSESSION ??? Need more clarity on this rule, thats for sure. And for Calvin Johnson, before he touched the ground with the ball was it in control in his hand before it touched the ground ? I did not see a bobble or falling out of the ball and his left hand was OUT OF BALANCE before the ball ever touched the ground. I think that makes it a CONTROLLED CATCH. So Control, 2 feet in, and crossed the goal one sounds like a touchdown catch.

  30. chuckyd317 says: Mar 17, 2011 3:28 AM

    Everyone outside of Chicago knows that was a catch and a TD, Chicago won that game on a technicality and they know it. Say what you want, that single play in week 1 had a huge impact on the rest of the season for the Bears… If it were a catch and it was upheld the Bears lose, and Chicago is ruined early with a loss to the Lions, Calling for Lovie’s head and trying to recover from a loss to an awful Detroit team.. As it was, it was not a catch, Bears win, and their 1 extra game allows them to take week 17, which would have been for the Division, a little less serious… Either way, I believe it was a catch, how many body parts need to touch the ground before he is down?? Im pretty sure I saw 2 feet, a hip, a leg, a knee and a hand… Then in his 3rd act of movement puts his hand and the ball on the ground to get up and celebrate and it wiggles… BS… but on the other hand, secure the ball with 2 hands and we are not having this conversation… At the end of the day my Packers are still Super Bowl Champs and the Bears still suck…

  31. deep64blue says: Mar 17, 2011 7:22 AM

    >>>So what’s wrong with requiring the player to catch the ball and to not allow it to touch the ground at any point in the process of making the catch?<<<

    You still have the same problem – when is the process of making the catch complete?

  32. rpiotr01 says: Mar 17, 2011 9:54 AM

    The Bears almost made it to the super bowl because of that stupid rule. It needs to be amended before something truly horrible happens, like Vikings or Lions make it.

  33. frojo112963 says: Mar 17, 2011 3:08 PM

    Again my two posts were removed. For what reason?……….

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