Much has been said and written this week about the future of the catch rule, which has become more of a punch line than the league ever would have wanted it to be. But as the Competition Committee prepares to recommend major surgery on the catch rule, the committee and, next month, the owners need to be careful not to go too far.
So far, the good news is that the convoluted (or convluted, as Chris Simms would say it) “survive the ground” component of the rule likely won’t survive this offseason. But another aspect of the catch rule could be amputated, too, and that’s the thing that could create unintended consequences.
John Kryk of PostMedia.com suggests that the new catch rule will result in the disappearance of “all the opaque qualifying language used over the years to define a catch, made necessary when the rule includes the counter-intuitive ‘survive the ground’ element — language such as ‘making a football move,’ or ‘becomes a runner.'”
That’s good news generally, but if provisions like “making a football move” or having the ball long enough to “clearly become a runner” go away, what will the NFL use to determine whether a player had the ball long enough for a catch to be completed?
If there’s no time element, plays like the Lee Evans non-catch from the 2011 AFC title game possibly would become a catch, because a catch will be completed the instant the player has two hands on the ball and two feet on the ground, even if the ball instantly gets slapped out of his hands. If there is a time element, what will the time element be?
The broader question the time element whether it will be objective or subjective, and whether if it’s subjective it will be subject to replay review.
It’s a critical aspect of the catch rule, and it’s been as problematic for the league in recent years as the “survive the ground” component.