PFT’s catch rule idea kills two Goodell birds with one stone


We here at PFT often offer suggestions as to how the game can be improved. And while there’s indeed a fine line between thinking outside the box and kooky talk (a line on which we often reside on the wrong side), the idea formulated during a stream-of-consciousness moment in the PFT PM podcast continues to be an apparent winner as it relates to the catch rule — especially in light of some of the things said Wednesday by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell said during his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference that the league will take a fresh look at the catch rule this year, and that he wants shorter and fewer stoppages for replay review. The best way to address both concerns will be to remove one of the three current elements of the catch rule from the scope of replay review.

The first two elements — whether the player has secured control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground and whether the player has gotten both feet or any part of his body other than his hands in bounds — are inherently objective and can be corrected, or confirmed, by replay review. The third aspect — whether the player had the ball long enough to clearly become a runner — is inherently subjective, and the judgment of the on-field officials should not be subject to frame-by-frame, piece-by-piece second guessing.

“I think it’s an interesting point,” Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay recently said on PFT Live, “and I think it’s one that merits discussion because what you’re saying is, ‘Let’s get out of replay in the quote ‘subjective element,’ because that’s a subjective element. We really didn’t design replay initially for subjective elements. It was designed for objective elements. It was designed for sidelines, end zone — it was lines of demarcation, objective elements not subjective. Your point’s a good one. I think we need to just look at it.”

Unless the league’s decision to retreat to square one when it comes to defining a catch ends up with a different process that eliminates all subjectivity from determining what is and isn’t a catch, any portion of the interpretation of the catch rue that relies on the exercise of judgment should be insulated from replay review, in the same way that other judgment calls, like pass interference are. Then, officials can rely on the real-time, bang-bang, know-it-when-they-see-it sense of what is and isn’t and was or wasn’t a catch.

27 responses to “PFT’s catch rule idea kills two Goodell birds with one stone

  1. How about a 60 second time limit on all reviews and they must be replayed at game speed? If an official cannot see enough to reverse the initial call in the time allotted, then it can be inferred that any mistake made was not egregious enough to warrant further review/reversal. Otherwise what is the point of having officials?

  2. When I played a zillion years ago;

    1: You catch the ball

    2: Both feet on or hit the ground

    3: You make ANY kind of move. (one step, a turn, whatever) IT WAS A CATCH

    If someone drilled you after that ONE movement and you lose it, it was FUMBLE.

    Nothing subjective about any of that. NOTHING. ONE move. That’s how EVERYONE HERE was raised to play WR, LB, S and CB.

    That makes Dez’s and the rest catches and fumbles or whatever.

    It’s so obviously easy to fix it amazes me that none of these people ever played WR.

  3. For the most part the catch rule is fine but in some aspects like Calvin or Dez it needs to be tweaked because they clearly caught the ball.
    I do think plays like Pitt vs NE were correct. He did lose control. Now if you want to change the rule where the ball can move when it hits the ground than thats fine but I dont see how that wouldn’t cause more problems

  4. It is not “subjective”. It is clear that the player must control his body and not be under the momentum of gravity. He must reverse or stop that momentum to be considered a runner. It is easy and obvious

  5. Deciding if the player “secured” the ball is inherently subjective. What is “secure”?

    Fixing the catch rule is simple. If the receiver has the ball in his hands or any part of his body, whether it’s moving or not, and it doesn’t touch the ground before he is downed or out of bounds, its a catch. Can’t get any more simple than that.

  6. The best solution by far would be to return to what worked well for the entire history of football before Goodell and his cronies started changing things.

    Hand(s) on ball with control, take 2 steps or make a football move and its a catch. Its simple, easy to see, easy to ref, and clear to see on replay.

    If you want to call the receiver a runner after that point fine.

  7. Maybe it shouldn’t be reviewable, but it should definitely be challengeable. Right now you can’t challenge when a catch is ruled incomplete, that needs to be changed.

  8. The most significant change to the rules would be disallowing the ball to touch the ground at all, therefore if the receiver catches the ball it is a catch if he goes out of bounds or is tackled thereafter provided he got 2 feet down, it can be bobbled as long as it doesn’t touch the ground by the time natural momentum ceases.

    The other facet to the rule is the “football move” constituting possession of a ball or merely an incompletion if the receiver is hit in the act of catching the ball. I need to think about this more but I would say possession in this case would be once the reciever has touched the ball natrual unforced motion of the ball has ceased, and the reciever has taken 2 steps therafter.

  9. Could this possibly be over engineered anymore? For literally 100 years of football, we knew what a catch was. All of a sudden that isn’t valid anymore?

  10. The issue with this suggested rule tweak isn’t the close call situations, or so-called Calvin Johnson rule plays as much as s that get ruled a catch but that replay clearly shows being a catch (such as when a guy is rolling over the ball and comes up with it, but replay shows he never grasped it until after it hit the ground). Can the rule be clear enough to let that type of play get overturned while allowing the plays like the Jesse James “survive the ground” catch to stand? Also, this wouldn’t fix the Buffalo catch from late in the year, as the overrule was due to him not having possession with both feet down before going out of bounds. I also don’t think it fixes the Seferian-Jenkins play, as that was ruled that he lost the ball on his way to the ground and thus fumbled it. That seems like it would fall outside of the catch rule adjustment, since it isn’t about maintaining control to the ground, but getting both feet down OR having resecured a fumble before it became a fumble. I think the rule fix would have a narrow fix regardless.

  11. Two feet down after not bobbling the ball while inbounds is the way it used to be. This can be clearly determined via replay. You are also a runner at that point and will follow all the running rules. The bit about what constitutes a ‘football move’ creates too much subjectivity, and in reality, everything is a football move. Keep it simple.
    They should also move the end zone pylon to just inside the playing field, so when a player touches it with the football or part of his body, you know it’s inbounds and a score.

  12. Determining whether a player has control of the ball is not an objective element. How many seconds or fractions of a second constitutes control? Does control in one hand count? How about control in the crook of his arm? Does the ball moving while still being contacted by both hands constitute control?

  13. The whole point of replay was to correct bad calls which in turn eliminates fan’s getting worked up about a missed call. Replay has done little to meet those objectives so go back to if the ref says it’s a catch, it’s catch with the exception of two feet in bounds as this is overwhelmingly easy to verify with the camera.

  14. In the end zone…..a player can “waive” the ball or across the goal or pylon and it is a TD with none of his body being on the end-zone. Yet, a pass receiver makes a great catch and comes down in the end zone and the ball moves as his body slams the turf and it is incomplete….the NFL is nuts!!!!

  15. The rule is perfectly fine, the problem is that announcers and casual fans keep saying “no one knows what a catch is anymore” when it has been clear and called consistently for years now.

  16. The rule as written is fine. The problem the crazy interpretation that allows for a guy who has possession and made a move and either crossed the goal post or lost it after being down by contact is somehow still not in possession.

  17. I agree with the PFT ideas. However, the NFL needs full time officials who have the ability to get in position to see plays. I see so many officials who can’t keep up with the game. They need athletic, well-trained officials who can keep up with the game by staying on top of it all-year full time.

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