Dez Bryant may have the most infamous catch/no-catch in recent vintage, but the NFL has provided no shortage of on-field controversy because of the ambiguous nature, or at least interpretation, of what is a catch and what isn’t.
Ask Calvin Johnson. Or Bert Emanuel.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on the Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday that the league has had discussions with the officiating department, Competition Committee, with Hall of Fame players, general managers and coaches. No doubt Goodell and the NFL are self-aware of the controversy created within the unclear terms of a completed catch when a player goes to the ground “during the process.”
“We’ve had two separate sessions where we went through all of the catch or no-catch plays. We looked at the rule, we looked at how it’s been applied, how replay intersects with this,” Goodell told Eisen. “I think what we heard from both groups, collectively, is that they’re comfortable with the rule. We have to do a better job of communicating it, but what they all want to do is see no cheap fumbles; they don’t want to see any cheap catches.
“They want to see players, when they go to the ground, retain the ball, come up with the ball and hand it to the official and not leave any doubt about whether they caught the ball.”
The Competition Committee is expected to evaluate the rule further and make a recommendation during the offseason.
Goodell said the “degree of focus” was impressive by those that were consulted and wants to see the fan focus return to the players on the field, not the officials interpreting the legitimacy of the action.
The commissioner doesn’t believe the catch rule is that difficult to interpret. He cited three elements to a catch: possession, two feet down, and “time.”
“Replay, now, with super slo-mo and the way they can stop it, sometimes it distorts the length of time it looks like somebody controls the football,” he said. “We spent a great deal of time focusing on that time element, and when you go to the ground, that’s when the committee of great players and general managers and coaches talked about the fact that when you go to the ground you should retain control of that ball, come up with that ball and hand the ball to the official, and that is what a catch is.”
Goodell believes the officials know the rules but might not always properly apply them, or communicate them to the public. Perhaps that is part of the reason the NFL allowed communication with the league’s head of officiating, Dean Blandino, and his staff during playoff games this year.
Complete or incomplete passes are reviewable, but not every play is. Some observers believe every play should be reviewable, but Goodell has often stressed that pace of play during that discussion and he did it again on Tuesday.
“While you want to get things correct on the field, our officials do a spectacular job and our coaches would agree with this if you get them away from the moment of any particular outcome. A call may have gone in their favor or not gone in their favor, but the speed of the game, the quality of officiating is really at a very high level,” Goodell said. “But we are going to try to improve it and that includes using replay. If we can use replay effectively to fix the obvious errors – that’s what it was intended to do – we’re going to do that. But I don’t think the game is ever going to be perfectly officiated. It’s impossible. A lot of these calls, as you know, are controversial because they’re so close, there are people on both sides, and that’s going to happen.”