Continuing his regular series of conference calls with NFL season-ticket holders, commissioner Roger Goodell talked to Lions fans this week and attempted to explain why Calvin Johnson’s apparent game-winning touchdown in last season’s opener was ruled in incomplete pass.
It’s safe to assume nothing Goodell said will satisfy the folks in Detroit.
“Unfortunately, calls during any game impact the outcome of a game, and that’s why officiating is so important, and consistency in officiating is so important,” Goodell said, per the Detroit Free Press. “But I think it’s important to go back. There are really three elements to any catch. No. 1, you’ve got to secure and control the ball in your hands. And No. 2, you’ve got to maintain control when you’ve got two feet down, or any other part of the body other than your hands. And No. 3 is you have to make sure that — and this clarification we’ll add to the [rule] book — you must control the ball long enough after A and B have occurred that you’ve caught the ball cleanly and you’ve got two feet down or another body part, you’ve got to control that long enough. And that’s something we have oftentimes looked at in our rules. We’ve looked at it through the competition committee. Controlling that ball after you’ve established the first two aspects of that for a period of time is where the element of judgment comes in. And I think our competition committee and other members of our operations, including on the club level, have all felt like we should make sure that the player has to maintain it for a period of time after the first two elements have been in control.”
Whatever clarification is added to the rule book, there still seems to be a great deal of confusion — even among NFL officials — about what, exactly, constitutes controlling the ball long enough. It’s no surprise that one fan told Goodell on the conference call that the NFL’s rules on what constitutes a catch don’t pass the smell test.
Goodell, however, said he disagreed with those who say most fans can’t figure out the rules on complete catches.
“Well, I don’t know if I’d agree with that,” Goodell said. “What people want is consistency in the rules. Any time there’s judgment, that’s when you sometimes get the inconsistency. If you’re a fan from one team, you’re looking at it from one perspective. If you’re a fan from another team, you’re looking at it from another perspective.”
But the truth is, it’s not just Detroit fans who think the “Calvin Johnson rule” stinks. The NFL’s inability to get all its officials on the same page about what constitutes a catch wasn’t just a problem for the Lions.