Add Tom Coughlin to the list of people who think the NFL applies the Calvin Johnson rule inconsistently.
In the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bills, Giants quarterback Eli Manning launched a beautiful pass to Mario Manningham in the end zone. Manningham grabbed it briefly but had it knocked away as he fell to the ground. That’s an incomplete pass, as everyone who knows the Calvin Johnson rule knows.
But as we’ve mentioned, not all of the officials in the NFL seem to know the Calvin Johnson rule. So Coughlin decided to challenge the ruling on the field, hoping that he could benefit from an inconsistent application of the Calvin Johnson rule.
“I know what the rule is, blah, blah, blah,” Coughlin explained afterward. “It was the right call, but in a situation like that I felt justified, knowing pretty much that I was probably going to lose it.”
In other words, Coughlin was willing to challenge a play, risking a timeout in the second half of a close game, not because he thought he was right, but because he thought the referee might get the call wrong.
As it turned out, referee Clete Blakeman confirmed the ruling on the field, and offered as good an explanation as you’re going to get of the Calvin Johnson rule from an NFL referee.
“After reviewing the play, the receiver was in the process of going to the ground while he was attempting to make the catch,” Blakeman announced. “When he hit the ground he lost control of the ball. Therefore, by rule, it is an incomplete pass.”
But while Blakeman got it exactly right according to the letter of the rule, Coughlin said he has seen the rule applied differently in other games, and he’s still waiting on an answer from the league about it.
“I’m certain they’re taking a hard look,” Coughlin said. “Normally they just verify that, ‘This was the right call and this is the way all the calls should have been made.’ I am sure they will.”
But while the NFL will certainly confirm that the officials got it right on the Manning-to-Manningham incompletion, what the NFL still hasn’t done is figure out a way to get the Calvin Johnson rule applied consistently across the board.