Goodell wants a “better solution” for the catch rule

AP

It’s become popular in plenty of circles to criticize Commissioner Roger Goodell whenever and wherever possible. On one of the topics for which the NFL absorbs plenty of criticism, Goodell could be in line for some genuine praise.

Goodell said Wednesday that the league wants to find a better solution for determining what is and isn’t a catch.

“The Competition Committee has looked at that, but I’ll go one step further with you: A couple weeks ago, I asked several football personnel, including former G.M.’s, current G.M.’s, current individuals, former players, former officials, to come together and try to see if we can study this and come up with some proposals for the Competition Committee to consider. We want clarity to that. We want to find a better solution if it’s out there,” Goodell said at a press conference held in connection with the quarterly ownership meetings, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com.

The fundamental problem with the current rule arises from the reality that, as applied, it often conflicts with the expectations of those watching the games, and what appears to be a catch ultimately is determined in too many instances to be not a catch. Following the controversial non-catch in the Cowboys-Packers playoff game, the NFL’s Competition Committee considered a change to the rule, but ultimately opted for different words but no different meaning.

To the extent the NFL is currently interested in making the rule better match the know-it-when-you-see-it, visceral reaction to what is and isn’t a catch, here’s the proposal PFT offered back in March:

1.  If a player catches a pass, gets two feet (or one shin/knee) down, and then goes to the ground, he must secure possession through the act of going to the ground.  If the ball touches the ground at any time in the process, the pass is incomplete.

2.  If a player catches a pass, gets two feet down and takes a third step, the catch is complete.  If he loses possession while going to the ground without being touched by an opponent while falling, it’s a fumble.  If touched by an opponent in the act of going to the ground, the play is over when the player hits the ground, regardless of whether he loses possession.

One of the biggest concerns associated with this specific type of rule comes from the potential uptick in fumbles. But how often will a player catch the ball, get three feet down, not be touched by an opponent, fall, lose possession upon hitting the ground, and not recover the ball?

It won’t happen often, and in the very rare cases when it does, the message to the receiver will be clear. First, you should have held onto the ball. Second, now go get the fumble.

The league has fumbled the handling of the catch rule too many times in recent years, and to his credit Goodell knows it. Also to his credit, Goodell is doing something about it.

76 responses to “Goodell wants a “better solution” for the catch rule

  1. They’ll botch it up

    This is the same bunch of people that deny the Laws of Physics

    They may even think the earth is flat

    Just the fact that they’re debating what is or isn’t a catch in 2015 tells you all you need to know

    Let’s just start by enforcing Article VIII of the NFL constitution that says the owners “shall hire a person of unquestioned integrity to serve as Commissioner”

    Anyone want to assert Goodell has unquestioned integrity? ANYONE?

  2. Too complicated…

    If the player catches a ball in the air and has possession and gets two feet down, or catches it on the ground, has possession and rotates his body prior to being hit by a defender he is now consider a runner and the same rules that work for a running back apply to the receiver.

    Easy, concise, and most of all everyone will understand it.

  3. The existing rule is fine, it only needs one minor tweak: get rid of the time travel component.

    Player catches the ball, possession with two feet down, down by contact, BUT THEN THE BALL– stop don’t care, play over.

    No other NFL rule has a retroactively piece, no other rule is so routinely goofed up, gosh is it maybe related?

  4. I *hate* the Cowboys, but they got robbed last year b/c of this. Instead of addressing this catch rule that actually impacts the outcomes of games or making sure that the concussion protocol was air-tight (see: Case Keenum), Goodell and his idiot cronies wasted the entire offseason on the alleged deflation of 0.1 (that is: zero point one) PSI in the name of “integrity”.

    Well, the chickens are coming home to roost this season, as the on-field product has been atrocious in large part b/c of the failed leadership of Goodell. How long can the owners let this incompetency continue before we just stop watching? Fire this man or watch us disappear.

  5. “The league has fumbled the handling of the catch rule too many times in recent years, and to his credit Goodell knows it. Also to his credit, Goodell is doing something about it.”

    And we are supposed to feel good about this???

  6. Too many rules. Make the game more simple! Less flags and let the players play! The Dial penalty and fine has me questioning what I’m doing wasting every Sunday watching this stuff.

  7. How about a better commissioner for the league? How about one that cares more about the “integrity of the game” over profits and B.S.?

  8. The uptick in fumbles isn’t from the player taking a third step and then losing control when they hit the ground, it is from taking a third step and getting the ball swatted out of their hands by another player.

    The current rules aren’t as bad as people think, they just need better clarification on what constitutes a ‘football act’. Such as: turning after a catch and taking a single step is a football act. Taking two steps after possession is a football act regardless of whether or not it is from the momentum of making the catch. Lunging forward with the ball toward the goal line or first down marker is a football act.

    Those simple things would be enough to clear up most of the big controversies.

  9. On what planet does a goober making $44M deserve “praise” for stating the obvious?

  10. It’s so simple. Control plus “2 feet” equals a catch. After that, it’s a fumble. All this football move and control to the ground is BS. The ground can’t cause a fumble but it currently can cause an incomplete pass after 2 or 3 steps…What is that?

  11. oh, AND, the rule should be the same anywhere on the field. No more EZ or sideline rules.

  12. gee, if the stupid refs would be consistent on what constitutes the catch, we might not be having this problem…even Mike Pereira admitted he no longer knows what constitutes a catch…

  13. NFL fans generally want a better solution for the NFL Commissioner, could you work on that problem too?

  14. Wow! Goodell is finally earning all those millions! He actually spoke to “current individuals”. That’s who I always turn to when I have any questions or problems. Not simply individuals…current individuals.

  15. “If a player catches a passes, gets two feet down and takes a third step, the catch is complete. If he loses possession while going to the ground without being touched by an opponent while falling, it’s a fumble” is straightforward, but the wording is confusing.
    It should read “…and takes a third step, the catch is complete. If he loses possession while going to the ground whether or not he is touched by an opponent while falling, it’s a fumble”
    More importantly, a player should be able to complete a reception if he’s laying on his back in bounds whether or not he gets 2 feet down.

  16. The only game in the world where a catch can be made with the ball touching the ground!

  17. Two feet down without bobbling. Catch. No football move, no special rules for the endzone, two feet down, possesion, catch. Anything after that is a fumble. And so what if fumbles go up?

  18. 1) there are plenty of catches each week where the ball touches the ground (doesn’t move) but in your rule these would be incomplete?

    2) so if the receiver catches the ball; is tackled, and the ball comes lose as he’s falling down its not a fumble??? That seems crazy to me.

  19. That’s why they pay you 44 million a year Rog. Organize a think tank of current and former coaches, GMs, players and officials to put some proposals together. Is the concept of catching a football really THAT difficult? Seems like you ignore some important issues or completely overthink/overreact to others. Of course public opinion will always win with you over good, sound judgement.

  20. Here’s the three step rule for a “better solution”:

    Step 1 – Get full-time refs
    Step 2 – Simply the rules, ala the above proposal
    Step 3 – Fire Dean Blandino

  21. But what about the end zone Mike? Two feet down and secure the ball, what if it comes loose as they hit the ground falling out of the back of the end zone?

  22. i like the idea of a third step in the field of play. “A football” is just too vague.

    if you dont take that third step, its not a catch and if you do and you lose the ball before you are down, regardless of contact, its a fumble.

  23. I think Roger’s been a good commissioner. Just fix the broken catch rule and completely forget about the idea of playing NFL football in London, and I’m good. I never blamed him for the handling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson deals. Those two players were the bad guys, not the commissioner.

  24. Fumbles are not bad for the game!!!

    1. Catch, two feet down, is a completion. If the ball is subsequently dropped:
    a. If receiver was not touched by defender on his way to ground, or was touched but was not going down, or just dropped the thing, it is a fumble.
    b. If touched on his way down and loses the ball after hitting ground, then no fumble, ball spotted where he was down.
    c. If in end zone, the play is already over, for Calvin Johnson has scored.

    This whole mess is the result of trying to excuse one terrible call in one big game. Cognitive dissonance is bad.

  25. Seems that too often Goodell says one thing while he’s actually doing something else. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, mainly because I’d like to see some clarity to this rule myself.

    I’m not sure whether he’s motivated more by protecting the integrity of the game or by protecting the perceived integrity of the administration of the game, but if it clarifies the rule in a way that works, I guess I’ll give him a pass on the answer to this question.

  26. It sounds like you mean to go back to how they ruled a catch before Goodell took over.

    I hope this suggestion includes getting rid of Goodell, too.

  27. Having a complete set of rules on catches would be great for the fans……I would greatly limit the league’s ability to control the outcome of games.

  28. Require the receiver to have clear possession with two feet on the ground,and require him to make a football move(a step) or in the case of going to the ground, require the receiver to have clear possession when he goes down as a result of contact. A knee, elbow, or some other body part must hit the ground after contact first before the ball does.

  29. I liked the catch rule of a few years ago when the viewers saw few questionable catches being reviewed.

    In other words remove all the rhetoric and maybe make catches reviewable but at normal speed .
    Don’t show catches in slow motion. Slow motion is the reason catches become problematic.

  30. “The Competition Committee has looked at that, but I’ll go one step further with you: A couple weeks ago, I asked several football personnel, including former G.M.’s, current G.M.’s, current individuals, former players, former officials, to come together and try to see if we can study this and come up with some proposals for the Competition Committee to consider. ”

    Current individuals? Roger, what the hell is a current individual?

  31. 1. If a player catches a pass, gets two feet (or one shin/knee) down, and then goes to the ground, he must secure possession through the act of going to the ground. If the ball touches the ground at any time in the process, the pass is incomplete.
    ______________________________

    The only thing I don’t like about this wording is that we have all seen players get two hands on the ball, have secure possession of the ball, and the tip of the football hits the ground. It doesn’t assist the catch. It doesn’t make the ball move. It just touches the ground a little. Using this wording, that clear catch becomes incomplete simply because “the ball touched the ground”.

  32. I am all for simplifying the rules for legal catches as well as other rules even if it might not be logical. However, your proposed #2 portion of the rule suggests that it won’t be a fumble if a defender punches out a caught ball as the players are going to the ground but would be a catch. Why would we want that interpretation?

    I can get used to anything consistently applied but am not sure stopping an “uptick in fumbles” is worth changing what we are used to.

    Replace the last two sentences in item 2 with: “If he loses possession while going to the ground after the third step, it’s a fumble.

  33. Mike, your two catch suggestions don’t address sideline/endline catches or end zone catches when the player is upright. A receiver tiptoes or drags a foot to make a “catch” inbounds but never goes to the ground… he thus has no room to take a third step inbounds. That scenario happens all the time, but isn’t covered in your suggestions. And the Odell Beckham play against the Patriots… OBJ felt he caught it because he made the catch and put two feet down in the end zone and thought it was over – the ball being slapped away at that point made it incomplete by current rule. An end zone TD pass needs to be defined as either instantaneous (ball in hands, two feet down = over no matter what a defender does) or requiring that third step.

  34. How about only apply “going to the ground” when the player is going to the ground to make the catch?

    If the player is upright or leaping UP when making the catch, falling down afterward shouldn’t be relevant to whether he caught it or not.

    It shouldn’t be complicated.

  35. The rules are probably not bad.

    Booth review ruins instant replay. If it was only coaches challenging, we would probably lose about 80% of the challenges.

    Problem with booth review is the guy up there knows the rules too well. So we are stopping too many plays that are not an obvious blown call.

    Let the coaches challenge everything. Give them 3 challenges, and get rid of the booth review.

  36. It’s real simple actually, if you catch the ball and get two feet down; you’re good, end of story. That is how it was forever in the nfl, I grew up with that, I’m sure most of you did. Get away from this “gotta control to the ground, make a football move”, etc, really!?

  37. He talked to “current individuals”. What on earth does that mean? People who are individuals now but weren’t before? Or people who are individuals now but won’t be in the future?

  38. sharrerwwonka22 says:
    Dec 3, 2015 9:20 AM

    It’s real simple actually, if you catch the ball and get two feet down; you’re good, end of story. That is how it was forever in the nfl, I grew up with that, I’m sure most of you did. Get away from this “gotta control to the ground, make a football move”, etc, really!?\

    —————–

    My argument is, and always will be, catching the ball IS a football move.

  39. Ever since Blandino has come on the scene everything has become a cluster. Fire Goodell his ex Jet Minions and Blandino..bring actual Integrity to the NFL and everything will begin to fall into place.

  40. i always had issues with the “going to the ground” part of the rule. i feel the league never clarified what constitutes going to the ground.

    let’s say you stretch out to catch a ball and catch it cleanly but are stumbling in the open field for 5 yards and several steps trying to get your balance, and then fall to the ground and the ball comes out. were you going to the ground and this pass is incomplete even though you stumbled for 5 yards? i know you got 2 feet down but you never made a football move – unless stumbling and trying to get your balance is a football move. Does your stumbling constitute “going to the ground”? complete or incomplete? think about it.

    then there are plays like i saw for tyler eiffert earlier in the year. caught the ball, 2 feet down, hit by a defender, stretched the ball over the goal line without taking another step while falling, hit the ground, ball popped out. complete or incomplete? they said he was going to the ground so it was incomplete. but he was in complete control. mind boggling.

    dez bryant. i will admit he was going to the ground, but when you are going to the ground and make a football move, shouldn’t the going to the ground part of the rule be negated at that point. also he had the ball and got knees and elbow down. how is what he did any different than a runner with the ball reaching out for the goal line and the ball pops out when it hits the ground. doesn’t make sense to me.

    if you dive for the ball and have it and then lose it when you hit the ground. incomplete pass, no questions asked. if you catch on the sideline and fall out of bounds and the ball comes pops out when you hit the ground with all of your weight, i think that should be a catch as long as they see you had possession in bounds and while falling. i just think it is illogical to call passes incomplete when you can clearly see they ball was caught.

    anyway, some points to ponder.

  41. It’s not just the catch rule. Goodell has made the rule book so complicated that no one knows everything in it. How many times this season have we heard coaches, players, analysts and fans say “I never heard of that rule before”. Belichick said he didn’t know what an ‘excessive time out’ was….less is more, Rog’…..worst commissioner in any sport–ever!!!

  42. sdisme says:
    Dec 3, 2015 8:54 AM
    The rules are probably not bad.

    Booth review ruins instant replay. If it was only coaches challenging, we would probably lose about 80% of the challenges.

    Problem with booth review is the guy up there knows the rules too well. So we are stopping too many plays that are not an obvious blown call.

    Let the coaches challenge everything. Give them 3 challenges, and get rid of the booth review.
    —————-
    ‘The guy up there knows the rules too well’…huh? First, he’s the only one in football these days that knows all the rules then; second, he should be a ref if he knows all the rules that well and third…….shouldn’t the rules be such that everyone knows them….thereby establishing an even playing field…..and don’t forget Goodell’s (cough, cough) integrity of the game.

  43. “We can’t manipulate games as well as we’d like to so we need a more poorly defined catch rule that the league can use selectively as it needs”

    That’s what he really meant to say

  44. What’s more simple?

    The way that worked for about 50 years: possession plus 2 feet, or one knee, or one elbow, or one butt equals a catch.

    Or Goodell and Blandino’s way: possession, plus 2 feet, or one knee, or one elbow, or one butt, plus an unknown and random time element, plus making a football move, plus maintaining possession throughout the entire process. (Note: common everyday things like running with a football and diving toward the end zone, have been determined to be non-football moves).

  45. How about better officiating while you’re at it! I’ve seen a lot of bad calls over the years, but with non calls and phantom penalty calls directly changing the result of games(think Ten-Oak & Det-Sea to name a couple) is ridiculous.

    If the Detroit gm had been correctly officiated, they’d be 5-6 with a 4-3 conf record now & Seattle would be 5-6 with a 4-5 conf record.
    I’m not a fan of any of these 4 teams, but something should be done!

  46. Classic Goodell: He’s responsible for the horrific current rule that nobody can understand and he tossed the old rule that was far better to get to the current monstrosity. But when the outcry gets loud enough he acts like he’s the white knight who can solve the very problem he himself caused.

  47. The ‘catch rule’ is absolutely ridiculous. Technology, rather than helping, has made officiating ridiculously petty and surreal. Too many truly remarkable and acrobatic grabs, which, in any other time and by any measure of athletic accomplishment would be ruled catches, are ruled out because of the mini micro strutiny of super slo mo. And those idiots announcing games in the booth just go along with it. I don’t care if Goodell or the man in the frickin moon fixes it. Enough is enough. It’s ridiculous. and don’t get me started on roughing the passer….

  48. if anyone thinks that dez bryant cause that pass at the one or obj caught that td..they are nothing but jaded fans

    the only rule that needs to be tweaked is a catch in the endzone..it should be treated like anywhere else on the field..you must come down/away with the ball.

    and for all those idiots who didnt understand the “fail mary”

    tie goes to the WR..so that was correctly ruled a td

  49. All they have to do is change the way the rule applies in the end zone.

    1. Once possession is visible to the naked eye, with no ball movement in the end zone or at the goal line when the ball breaks the plane (front of the goal line), there is no need to show more possession, since the goal line has been reached for a TD.

    Keep everything else the same inside the goal lines because it works.

    Show possession all the way through the play, which means being tackled with the play done, or a football move being made.

  50. Yes, the “catch rule” is confusing, too many variables to consider.

    However, when a runner dives towards the end zone, wether he’s inbounds or out of bounds, and he holds the ball over the end zone and fumbles the ball it’s still considered a touchdown.

    Double standard.

  51. nflexecutivesconstantlylie says:
    Dec 3, 2015 12:12 PM

    Meh, for the first nine weeks of the season the NFL seemed ok with the catch rules.

    What happened in week ten to pique the NFL’s interest?
    ———————

    The owner of a team that got jobbed must have made a call to Goodellbot, or some enforcer from gambling interests made a call.

    That, or they are all beginning to realize that their house of cards is about to come tumbling down.

  52. No way, a Jeff Fisher chaired committee made a few changes to the catch rule but not enough to impact it in a positive way?

    Sounds like the committee went 8-8 on that one.

  53. They’re waiting until way after the Packers-Cowboys game to change things because they don’t want to admit that they gave the Packers an unearned free ride into the NFC championship game.

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