The NFL has convened a committee to explore possible changes to the catch rule. The NFL’s V.P. of officiating anticipates that no major changes will be made.
Appearing on NFL Network before the Pro Bowl, Dean Blandino expressed satisfaction with the catch rule in an interview with Steve Wyche.
“We think that the rule is in a good place right now,” Blandino said, via Will Brinson of CBSSports.com. “I really think it’s just communicating the rule and educating, There’s a subjective element to the rule so there are always going to be those plays where we debate [what happened].”
Last year, the NFL made mostly cosmetic adjustments to the rule that is at its most controversial when a player is going to the ground while making a catch, and then fails to maintain possession upon landing.
“Maybe there’s another tweak,” Blandino said. “But I don’t anticipate any major changes.”
The biggest tweak already has been made, in our estimation. And it debuted in the divisional round game between the Packers and Cardinals. By applying religiously the replay-review standard to the decisions made by the official on the field regarding whether the receiver had the ball long enough to become a runner (thereby completing the catch before hitting the ground and losing possession), the referee as guided remotely by Blandino in the replay booth will be more likely defer to the real-time, know-it-when-you-see-it assessment of a catch, without having a frame-by-frame, slow-motion substitution of someone else’s judgment overturn the decision.
That’s what happened with a second-half catch by Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald against Green Bay, and it’s what should have happened a year earlier when Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant made a catch that was deemed to be a catch by the official who was looking right at it.
If that’s the standard that will apply going forward, maybe the only thing needed is an apology to the Cowboys for not realizing sooner that this is the best way to handle the situation.