The NFL has had a handful of officiating controversies this year, but no major mess related to the catch rule, yet. With the Cowboys returning to Lambeau Field for the second time since #dezcaughtit, owner Jerry Jones picked at a scar that could be one of the factors influencing the reduced TV viewership of NFL games: The disconnect between what the audience regards a catch to be, and what the league considers it to be.
The decision to reverse via replay review the key fourth-down catch by Dez Bryant in the playoffs “knocked the credibility out from under the way we judge what’s a catch and what’s not,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
The outcome sparked an effort to re-examine the rule that, to date, has resulted in no substantive change to what a catch is, and isn’t.
“Since that play, I don’t believe they’ve been able to say it in a way that any of us understands yet,” Jones said.
As a practical matter, a renewed insistence on applying the replay standard as written has provided the league with some cover when it comes to changing the real-time rulings on the field driven by a know-it-when-you-see-it sense that a catch was, or wasn’t, made. Until , however, the league comes up with an objective formula that can be applied without discretion or debate, questions will remain regarding whether a player completed the act of catching a pass.
It’s hardly one of the issues about which the NFL is most proud. At a time when there are no current catch-related problems, the league likely would prefer that Jones and all other owners keep quiet about past catch-or-not-catch consternation.