Catch rule may have indeed changed without changing

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It’s become fashionable to trash the catch rule, and for good reason. For years, the application of the rule has not meshed with the gut-level reaction from fans regarding what is and isn’t a catch.

Now that the NFL has once again decided not to change it, folks continue to hammer away at the intransigence, failing to recognize the very real possibility that the rule has changed without actually changing.

The first real proof of it came in January, during the epic divisional round playoff game between the Packers and Cardinals. Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught a pass while going to the ground, he lost possession when he hit the ground, and the official on the field determined that Fitzgerald had caught the ball.

The possible change in the technically-not-changing rule was revealed during the replay process. Applying the “indisputable visual evidence” standard, it was determined that insufficient proof existed to overturn the ruling on the field that Fitzgerald had the ball long enough to become a runner.

The NFL may not explain it that way, because to do so could be to admit that Dez Bryant’s non-catch from January 2015 was actually a catch. Indeed, the official looking right at Bryant as he caught the ball in the air, took multiple steps while tumbling to the ground, and reached out with the ball toward the goal line decided that he had the ball long enough to become a runner. Under the standard that didn’t overturn the Fitzgerald catch a year later, the Bryant catch also shouldn’t have been overturned.

Regardless of whether the NFL explains it this way or couches it in concerns for player safety or other words aimed at securing the patience of all who are paying attention, the proof will be in the 2016 pudding, and the league will likely do a much better job of ensuring that, when it comes to catches, what we see is what we get.

50 responses to “Catch rule may have indeed changed without changing

  1. Good. I agree with this rule 100%, and will never agree with those who want it changed. There’s a difference between catching and controlling the ball through the play, and holding it for a couple of seconds.

  2. transparency and integrity?

    can’t define what a catch is and can’t tell us what the pressure of footballs were last year.

    But, everything is good, remain calm, making money fist over hand, so the owners love Roger.

    just one question, how much more money could they be making with someone who has competence and surrounds himself with competent people?

  3. All depends on who the refs want to win that day. Between catches, Pass interference calls, and holding penalties any referee crew can decide who wins any given Sunday. With the right crew of officials we could have the Jags or Brown in the Superbowl. NFL officiating is just the worst. No accountability for when they blatantly throw games.

  4. This is giving them WAY too much credit. It’s never been consistently enforced so a single call this past playoffs means absolutely nothing. And who on earth would think that some unofficial “change” was going to hold up long term when the wording of the rule is still a total mess?

  5. “Never admit a mistake” is Goodell’s mantra.

    The Dez Bryant catch showed just how ridiculous the rule had become.

  6. hasn’t changed at all – just depends on the teams playing and the refs reffing. How about Bryant’s “catch” in the Steelers/Bengals game? by no measure at all was that a catch AND it was auto reviewed, they still got it wrong.

    No wording of the rules will ever overcome bias.

  7. Dean Blandino is actually a pretty smart and articulate guy that should re-write this rule himself. The problem is that Troy Vincent and his affirmative action crew of Kim Fields and Rod Graves (people that have failed repeatedly yet somehow came back at senior positions at the league office) can’t get out of their own way. They need to let the smart people decide what this rule should be.

  8. Two completely separate refs with different interpretations of completely different plays does not mean that there was an adjustment to the rule. I get that there is nothing to write about this morning, but let’s not start making stuff up.

  9. Troy Vincent really pushes “transparency” but he picks and chooses what should be transparent. The guy isn’t smart enough to realize that is the opposite of transparency. There are simply too many people involved making big decisions. Too many people afraid to tell the emperor he isn’t wearing any clothes.

  10. I think to really understand this issue, we shouldn’t look back to January 2015, when Cowboys wine receiver Dez Bryant dropped a pass, but instead to January of 2016, when Jeff Janis(arguably the best currently active reciever in the league) caught the game winning touchdown to send the packers to the super bowl pretty much. which he caught and didn’t drop.

  11. titletownphipsi

    Have you ever officiated a football game? To call “NFL officiating… just the worst.” is ignorant. You have no idea how to interpret the rules (especially considering you’ve probably never SEEN the rules book). NFL officials are probably the best-trained officials in the world, with probably the toughest officiating job to go along with it.

    And before you ask, I wear the white hat on Friday nights in GA, so I know just how hard officiating football is. The “catch rule” isn’t that hard to interpret if you know the actual rule. The HS rule is very similar, but it doesn’t get as much play because gamblers aren’t losing money, which all anyone really cares about.

  12. What’s funny is when Packer fans whine about catch/non catch calls after they were 1) gifted a win at home a few years back by the refs taking away the Bryant catch, and 2) many years before that taking away a Vikings TD catch (TE Shiancoe). Both favorable calls by the refs in Lamblow put them in the playoffs.

    notjimmekimmel says:
    Mar 18, 2016 10:58 AM

    I think to really understand this issue, we shouldn’t look back to January 2015, when Cowboys wine receiver Dez Bryant dropped a pass, but instead to January of 2016, when Jeff Janis(arguably the best currently active reciever in the league) caught the game winning touchdown to send the packers to the super bowl pretty much. which he caught and didn’t drop.

  13. “but instead to January of 2016, when Jeff Janis(arguably the best currently active reciever in the league) caught the game winning touchdown to send the packers to the super bowl pretty much. ”

    Really breaking new ground with “abuse of ‘arguably’ there”.

    Not to mention “pretty much”. I don’t recall seeing the Packers in the NFC championship game.

  14. They left it alone so games can continue to be fixed.

    After all, it’s just “sports entertainment”, like the WWE.

  15. The Packers are involved in both scenarios. I watched both games. The Dez Bryant example was a bad call but according to the letter of the NFL rule is was called incomplete. Now I’m a Packer fan. I thought the Cowboys got screwed on that one. The Larry Fitzgerald example was an incomplete pass, visual evidence was given yet the replay official says it stands – inconclusive evidence. B.S.
    Bad call. Anyone with half azzed vision could see he lost control.
    Almost every time they try to tweak a rule they screw it up.

  16. How about ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’?

    If there isn’t evidence to prove a catch wasn’t made- it’s a catch, no matter the call on the field. If you can’t prove via video that a ball was intercepted, it’s an interception, no matter the call on the field. Can’t prove a fumble? Team retains possession, no matter the call on the field. Benefit of the doubt should go to the playmakers.

    Referees can’t tell any better than 9 slow-mo camera angles, so the preponderance of evidence has to overcome a flawed judgement. Put the responsibility on the replay results and not a referee who likely made the ‘safe call’ (sure, he caught it, overturn me on replay!).

  17. titletownphipsi says:
    Mar 18, 2016 10:30 AM
    All depends on who the refs want to win that day. Between catches, Pass interference calls, and holding penalties any referee crew can decide who wins any given Sunday. With the right crew of officials we could have the Jags or Brown in the Superbowl. NFL officiating is just the worst. No accountability for when they blatantly throw games.
    ======================

    I would have considered this comment insane a few years ago, but one really has to wonder sometimes if there isn’t a calculated effort to sway games/scores/etc. Considering Goodell has zero integrity or credibility, these are now legitimate questions

  18. whispersd

    I don’t recall seeing the Packers in the NFC championship game.
    =========================

    maybe the networks send a different feed to WI that the rest of the country is not aware of?

  19. I’ve never understood why the rules for a runner and receiver are different at the goal line. If a runner has control of the ball as the ball crosses the plane of the goal line, it’s a touchdown regardless of what occurs after that point. If a receiver has the ball under control as he crosses the line, he has to finish the catch with full control until the play is over.

  20. imo the league should focus more on its 2 feet in bounds rules. eventualy a players gonna come along missin a leg or 2 and the nfl will be in violaton of the ADA. thats why they need to just adopt colleges rule. like i alwasy say, if u have 2 legs in bounds, u dont have 1

  21. The “going to the ground” rule is pretty clear, actually. It’s the ridiculous interpretation of it that defies logic. Here’s the text:

    “N.F.L. Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1: Going to the ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

    The problem is the interpretation of the first “If” statement. To any normal person, jumping UP in the air to make a catch is NOT going “to the ground in the act of catching a pass.” To any normal person, catching a pass, taking a couple stumbling steps, then falling is NOT going “to the ground in the act of catching a pass.”

    The rule was clearly written to address LOW passes where the receiver goes DOWN to the ground to catch the ball. No other passes/catches should prompt application of this rule. At all. Ever. Problem solved.

  22. Every lawyer should know (and former ones) the importance of case law. And how the NFL selects what case law it will consider cannon.

    That’s how you change the catch rule without changing the catch rule.

  23. In Teddy We Trust says:
    Mar 18, 2016 11:56 AM

    Packer fans now wish that Dez Bryant catch had been ruled a catch because then they wouldn’t have had to live through the biggest choke in NFL history.
    ———————————————-
    And I thought the biggest choke in NFL history was Brett Favre throwing the interception in that NFCCG.

  24. The problem is less with the rule and more in the consistency in which it is enforced. What might be a catch in one game might not be a catch in another on the same day. There is too much judgment given to the refs.

  25. Part of me wants receivers to get their way on this… then maybe we can see a handful more yds/tds, but a whole lot more fumbles/turnovers.

    The current rules is imperfect, but as odd as it is, I still haven’t seen a better suggestion that holds up better in all situations. IMHO most of the controversy is from receivers not remembering the damn rule and not holding on…

  26. “Catch rule may have indeed changed without changing”

    ——

    in other words, Blandino tried to explain it again.

  27. The current rule invites injuries. The defense can still get the incompletion by hitting when the play is over after a tripped up receiver takes a roll.

  28. People complaining about inconsistency with calls? Then stop watching football. Holding is not consistently called, interference, illegal hands, contact to the head, you name it. Refs today are much more accurate than in the past. Go youtube an NFL game from the late 70s or early 80s. Terrible calls are routine, and got made without the slightest objection from the team that gets shafted. They understood it was part of the game. You win some you lose some. Today, with TV and a general obsession with microanalyzing every call and detail of the game, fans get worked up about stuff that, even with replay, could easily go in either direction. If you want mathematical of precision in your games and how the rules get applied, go play your computer games. If you want actual human competition, expect a human element.

  29. Getoffmylawn! says:
    Mar 18, 2016 12:29 PM

    In Teddy We Trust says:
    Mar 18, 2016 11:56 AM

    Packer fans now wish that Dez Bryant catch had been ruled a catch because then they wouldn’t have had to live through the biggest choke in NFL history.
    ———————————————-
    And I thought the biggest choke in NFL history was Brett Favre throwing the interception in that NFCCG.
    _______

    Which time?

  30. I am not a big Goodell fan but why do you people knock him on the rules ? The commissioner neither makes the rules nor does he call the play in the field. Rules committee comes up the rules, not the commissioner. If there is a proposed change in a rule it has to be brought up by a team and then the owners vote on it. Goodell has no part in rules or rule changes what so ever. He does however, have the authority to dish out punishment on certain rule violations. Of which , he does do a poor job of that.

  31. urbusted2 says:
    Mar 18, 2016 12:05 PM

    I’ve never understood why the rules for a runner and receiver are different at the goal line. If a runner has control of the ball as the ball crosses the plane of the goal line, it’s a touchdown regardless of what occurs after that point. If a receiver has the ball under control as he crosses the line, he has to finish the catch with full control until the play is over


    until the pass is completed by rule, runner rules don’t apply.

    truth is that 50 years ago we barely had replay, video quality was poor an different refs called the same play differently.

    nothing has changed. we still argue replay calls. we just see it better now, unless it’s against our team 😉

  32. In Teddy We Trust says:
    Mar 18, 2016 3:14 PM

    Getoffmylawn! says:
    Mar 18, 2016 12:29 PM

    In Teddy We Trust says:
    Mar 18, 2016 11:56 AM

    Packer fans now wish that Dez Bryant catch had been ruled a catch because then they wouldn’t have had to live through the biggest choke in NFL history.
    ———————————————-
    And I thought the biggest choke in NFL history was Brett Favre throwing the interception in that NFCCG.
    _______

    Which time?
    —————————-
    The last time the Vikings made it to the NFCCG. I know there aren’t many times that has happened but, as a Vikings fan you probably still have a banner up saying they participated in that game and you probably remember the date too.
    Remember that Vikings Super Bowl win? JK.

  33. The problem isn’t the rule it’s the way it’s interpreted. The way fans and indeed refs see it is that possession plus an intention lunge or dive is a football move. The defensive coaches on the rules commitee want to be able to knock the ball out of the guys hands after the receiver crosses the plane of the goal line and it be called incomplete.

  34. Easiest way to determine if it was a catch or not is to question whether or not it is a fumble. If the recever drops a pass and you think it could be a fumble then it was a completed pass.

  35. Sometimes you gotta ask yourself, “Who is writing these rules?” I say just get 5-6 great receivers and QB’ in a room and let them write the rule. Who else better to know what a catch is. Who you say?
    For example and certainly not all inclusive but ex-players like: Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss, Tim Brown, Tony Gonzalez, Drew Pearson, John Stallworth. Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Brett Farve, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Phil Simms.
    Sometimes, we just have the wrong folks trying to make hard rules for simple things!

  36. i have not one iota of sympathy for crybaby Bryant, who got away with numerous aggriegous fouls both in that game and the game prior;

    however, HE DID NOT CATCH THAT BALL;

    and it was not even close;

    if the ground cannot cause a fumble, then it damn well can’t cause catch, either;

    the Catch Rule can be resolved quite simply: if the ball at any time touches the ground–whether the receiver is going to the ground or juggles it another twenty yards before losing it–IT IS NOT A CATCH;

  37. I think the NFL is realizing that stumbling does not constitute a football move. If Dez had any kind of control over his body, he would have waltzed into the endzone completely untouched.

    As it was, he stumbled for three steps as he fell to the ground. No way he could have moved his body to the left or right, as gravity was the only thing really effecting the momentum of his body.

    Did Dez have control for those three stumbling steps? Yes, but he was also going to the ground the entire time, and that’s where the rule is clear that he has to complete the process of the catch. And that, he did not do.

    If they want to change the rule in the future and wipe out the clause about going to the ground, and I have no problem if they do that, then that would have been ruled a catch in that circumstance. But as the rule is currently written, it was simply not a catch.

  38. Neither were catches. The only people that think so are young fans that are mad because the non-catch affected their fantasy leagues.

    Read and understand the rules.

  39. And I thought the biggest choke in NFL history was Brett Favre throwing the interception in that NFCCG.

    It was..both times..and the most hilarious!!

  40. The ruling on the Fitz play was that he established himself with two feet in bounds, then lost the ball going out of bounds. The Dez catch, he was going to the ground as he was catching the ball and never established himself as a runner when he lost it on impact.

    Two different situations, and two different results using the same rule.

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