The NFL has tried fixing the confusion over what is and is not a catch by legislating new rules.
Now, it seems their goal is to simply explain things better and hope for the best.
League vice president of officiating Dean Blandino spent much of his time during his press conference at the owners meetings talking about the process of determining whether a thrown thing has been caught.
He reiterated the rulebook definition of “control, two feet, plus time,” and that if a receiver has yet to become a runner, he must control the ball through contact with the ground (i.e. those who are diving or reaching for the goal line).
Blandino mentioned that the idea of “control, two feet, plus time” was put in the rulebook in 1938 and modified in 1942, so it’s not a new concept.
While he repeated the formula enough to make the assembled media shudder at the thought there would be math (we were told there would be no math), his message was consistent that he thought the current rule worked. If he had a problem, it’s that improvements in technology have made it easier to see minor imperfections, and microscopically analyze plays until confusion was created rather than eliminated.
That’s also why competition committee chairman Rich McKay said they’ve resisted the Bill Belichick “challenge everything” notion.
“You can begin to re-write the rulebook, substituting one person’s judgement for another’s,” McKay said.
So after convening committees of former players and coaches and executives, the league seems to have come to peace with the idea that as long as plays are replayed, they will be debated.
But instead of trying to fix things with new rules or different wording, explaining the existing standard simply and focusing on educating the officials (and the media and the public) might help them most.