John Mara: “Right language” for change to catch rule is a challenge

Getty Images

Word from Indianapolis on Tuesday is that the league’s Competition Committee is considering eliminating the “going to the ground” portion of the catch rule in order to clarify what constitutes a completed pass in the 2018 season and beyond.

Giants co-owner John Mara is part of that committee and he confirmed that the group is mulling such a change. Mara said that the committee is “unanimous” in the belief that disputed plays involving Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant in the 2014 playoffs and Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson should be catches.

Mara cited another play from this year as one he also believes should be a catch, but allows that finding the right way to phrase the rule presents a “challenge” as they prepare a change to the rulebook.

“The Jesse James play, I think should be a completion, but I’m not sure we’re unanimous on that,” Mara said, via “But plays where guys seem to make the catch and then make a football move with it, I think most of us agree those should be completions. Now it’s just a question of coming up with the right language.”

Mara said “we’re going to try” to have a new rule ready for the league meetings set for late March.

41 responses to “John Mara: “Right language” for change to catch rule is a challenge

  1. Its wasn’t always a cluster-fudge what was and wasn’t a catch. Can’t we just go back to those rules? Why keep trying to re-invent the wheel or custom design rules based off a few high profile plays for years past?

  2. First off, it is pretty telling when a Mara agrees that a Cowboys player caught the ball. If he can see it then it should be fairly obvious for the entire world. Second, I would like to know who all is on the competition committee. That would go a long ways into telling you who isn’t onboard Jesse James not catching the ball.

  3. It should be a catch if the receiver has control going out of bounds, crosses the goal line, or back of the end zone; play over so a bobble out of the field of play immaterial. As with a runner, the ground cannot cause an incomplete catch. If he has control going to the ground and any portion of leg/arm touches the ground, play over.

  4. I’m old. I’ve been watching NFL football for over 50 years. The catch rule was not broken. Occasionally we would see replays of missed calls. Now that we have replay, go back to the good rule, and we have perfection.

  5. Define a catch as possession, one or two hands, clear control. Stop conflating it with everything else that happens or can happen after a player gains possession. How many feet you have in bounds doesn’t determine possession, it determines if you were in bounds or out. Whether you lost control when you hit the ground doesn’t determine possession, it determines whether you lost possession or were down on the field of play.

  6. Simple is easiest … 3 questions

    1. Does the receiver have the ball “under control”? (control in this instance is 2 points of contact hand+forearm, Arm+body, 2 hands, etc). Doesn’t matter if is moving as long as it stays in contact until question #2 is answered.

    2. Does/is more than 1 body part touch(ing) the field in bounds? (get rid of 2 feet OR 1 knee OR elbow, etc.)

    3. Did the receiver have the ball in his hands / arms BEFORE the ball touched the ground?

    IF these questions are a yes, then it’s a catch. If the ball comes out AFTER all 3 have been answered (and the receiver isn’t down) it’s a catch and fumble. Simple.

  7. Supposedly Goodell told Al Riveron to stop being so technical when reviewing catches during the super bowl.
    The game was more fun to watch too.

    The NFL needs to realize that if they make the game suck for viewers they will have fewer viewers eventually. Maybe not the hard core fans. but the occasional fan may drift away. How much would a 10% decline in viewers over 5 years impact the next TV contract?

  8. Whatever language they come up with … I hope the take the time to stress test it. Look at all the catches in 2018 (not just the contested ones)… and see how it impacts the call on the field.

    Rule changes always have unintended consequences and they should have an idea what they are before implementation.

  9. If a player has his toes inbounds along the sideline, makes a sideline catch, and proceeds to fall and loses the ball after he hits the ground on the sideline, will it be a catch?

  10. there will always be disagreement on what’s a catch. falling to the ground and losing the ball is not a catch.

  11. The issue is if it is a bang bang 2 hands possession catch, there will be a BUNCH of fumbles that happen on what would have been incompletions.

    That was why the rule is currently maintain the catch to the ground if they are falling.

    It is not a great rule, but it is easier to call than what would be with the fumbles occuring from quick possession catches.

  12. omeimontis says:
    February 27, 2018 at 4:04 pm
    just say the ground cannot cause a fumble or a no-catch.


    I think that makes the most sense.

    If the receiver already has two feet down and possession then it’s already a catch. If the receiver didn’t get two feet down, and goes to the ground, just like any running play, as soon as they have a forearm, knee or butt down, it’s a catch at that moment. If the ground pops the ball out after they are down, then it’s still a catch.

    I think you get rid of the whole “becomes a runner thing” too. Two feet and possession is a catch. Maybe a slight judgement call where you have to have the ball for a count of 1 without it moving to have possession, but that’s it.

    It should be easy for the league to review all the plays with the new rules and look at how it would impact fumbles, which is the biggest concern.

  13. jamaltimore says:
    February 27, 2018 at 4:33 pm
    there will always be disagreement on what’s a catch. falling to the ground and losing the ball is not a catch.


    If you have possession and two feet down, then you already caught it. That is the point to me.

    if you go to the ground you already had a catch. That will increase the fumbles, but it makes more sense.

  14. @ packsupersoldier says:

    “It’s time for Cowboys fans to let it go…just like Dez did.”

    Really? Seems to me it is time for Packer fans to stop telling other fans to let it go, especially with the Packers choking repeatedly the past several years. And after said Cowboys/Packers game, the Packers choked it away the following week in Seattle. Winning is what ultimately matters – the Cowboys lost in GB, and GB lost in Seattle. End of story.

    What needs to be looked at, however, and Mara and the competition committee obviously agree, is what constitutes a catch. If the ground can’t cause a fumble, then both Calvin and Dez had a successful catch. Dez caught it, took 2 steps, possessed the ball, NEVER lost possession, but the ball moved due to the ground knocking it loose? So, if the ground cannot cause a fumble……..

    What needs to be let go is the outdated rule. A guy can catch the ball, get two feet down, and have the ball knocked out by an opponent and still be a catch (and subsequently a fumble). However, if the ground even causes the ball to move ever so slightly (even if the receiver caught the ball and took two steps to possess it), it isn’t a catch?

    No logic there, but I digress.

  15. mrbiggstuff says:
    February 27, 2018 at 3:58 pm
    Possession. Two feet down (or equivalent) down.
    The Pythagorean Theorem this is not.


    I agree.

    Only thing to determine is what is considered possession. Everyone can agree that if the ball is being juggled it`s not possession, so how long does a receiver have to possess the ball to have possession. A count of 1 with both feet or equivalent down?

  16. By the time they are done, if there are lawyers or politicians in the room, the rule will be as long as the IRS code and no one will have a clue what it means.

  17. @ cmonitsfunny says:

    Here’s to hoping it get simplified so it can be applied consistently.
    And Dez didn’t have control.”

    At what point did he not have control? When it hit the ground, the ball moved, but he never lost possession. So, what is your definition of “control”, especially if the ground cannot cause a fumble?

    This is the exact problem. The rule as it is creates a subjective decision on the part of the person reviewing it. Beasley had a very similar catch to Dez

    If it is a sideline catch, where the player is going out of bounds, then I am fine with having to control the ball all the way to the ground. In the case of Dez or Johnson, the ground should not be part of the equation at all, ESPECIALLY if the ground cannot cause a fumble. If the ground can’t cause a fumble, it shouldn’t be able to cause an incompletion either if all parts of the catch rule were fulfilled before hitting the ground.

    Cole Beasley had a catch ruled a TD in a 2016 regular season game in GB, even though he apparently lost possession before hitting the ground. This from Florio in regards to the “catch” from Beasley:

    “Under the standard the NFL currently applies to the review of these rulings, Bryant’s catch from the 2014 playoffs likely would have been upheld.”

    OBVIOUSLY the rule needs to be simplified, and logic needs to rule the day on this, not subjectivity.

  18. It shouldn’t matter if both feet are down or two hands (quite a few one handed catches). If a receiver lays out stretching for the catch, ball is securely in his hand(s) not moving, and pulls it to his body (he controls it) then gets hit before landing it should be catch/fumble. As long as he possesses it.

  19. ding ding ding ding! we have a winner!!

    Mara sums up the problem: It is very easy to say we need to change the rule, quite a bit more difficult to come up with the actual new rule.

  20. cmonitsfunny says:

    And Dez didn’t have control.

    Yes he did. Even the Packers fans thought he did when they went dead silent. The look of disbelief on Aaron Rogers face showed he believed Dez had control. Every single person on earth watching that play, including you, thought it was a catch. Only one single ref who was clueless or paid off ruled against it.

  21. Challenges are needed on penalties and ground calls. A better system where two refs both watch on their own screens. If they disagree only then is the call made in NY. And if the ball is In his hands going down and in his hands after them it’s good. No different really if he fumbled it and recovered himself right?!

  22. Pass travels 15 to 40 yards in air and winds up in a receivers hands/arms where’s the mystery ? Receiver just caught the ball. It moves a little, so what. He drops it when hitting the ground. Fumble. A runner gets tackled and his knee, elbow whatever hits the ground and runner drops ball, fumble. This crap ground cannot cause a fumble has created more BS controversy and cheats the defense. Hold onto the football until the whistle blows otherwise you fumbled. Pass caught and receiver goes out of bounds but keeps procession of ball weather it’s turning or flipping within receivers arms. It’s a catch as long as ball does not leave receivers arms. Part of ball touched ground while in receivers arms. It’s a catch.

  23. Challenge? Find a rulebook from about 1980. It’s probably thin as a pamphlet compared to the bloated rulebook nowadays. Roll the catch rule back to whatever it was then. Problem solved.

  24. Nothing wrong with the current rule! The rule is clear as it is and there is no way they will change it because of the concussion issue.

    If 2 feet in bound with control of the ball is a catch, then that means the WR has immediately become a runner and therefore is not protected anymore. That will have defenders launching at the WR’s head to knock him out right after he caught it to try create a fumble…!!! You just cannot make a rule where the WR has completed a catch but is not yet a runner, that would be ridiculous!

  25. Everyone saying “Let’s just go back to the old rules from before any of this was a problem” are mistaken.

    We can’t go back to that, because now we have replay and it gets better every year. If we had the old rules, too many plays would be overturned. You have to either a) get rid of replay, which isn’t happening, or b) craft a rule that is precise enough that the majority of calls will survive replay.

  26. I know people will disagree with me but I think the best way to fix it is:
    Get rid of instant replay except on crossing the goal line scoring plays and onside kicks. IMO, Replay results are wrong/inconclusive many times any ways, The whole slowing it down, turning the camera thing is misleading…. and with these tools, people still cant agree.

    Look at that Dion Lewis Fumble against the Jags? Did he fumble or not, to me it looked like he regained control… to others it looked like a fumble. Then on the continuation, people cant even agree if Myles Jack was touched down or not.

  27. Yea…that TD called back in the Stealers vs Patriots game completely flipped the point spread…

    Whatever ideas these greasy owners come up with…will have to be cleared by Vegas first… remember…refs don’t affect the outcome of a game…but they absolutely affect point spreads…

  28. Gotta love the ‘get rid of instant replay’ crowd when the correct call is made when using it. Loudest yellers are the fans of the team that didn’t get the outcome they wanted. The whole ’50 guys in a bar’ argument is silly. Depends on which city the bar is located.

    Those 50 guys want their team get the benefit of any doubt more than they want to assure the officials get the call exactly right every game. Besides, once sports betting is legalized, leagues will rely more and more on frame-by-frame analysis of each questionable play. Judgment calls will be phased out.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!