BOCA RATON, Fla. — The NFL finally revealed the formula for a catch. It’s quite simple and doesn’t at all look imposing on a piece of paper or seem too daunting when it’s spoken verbally.
Here it is, the formula that will end all debates and frustrations when watching games on Sundays: Control+ two feet+ time=catch.
Got it? Good. Knowing that means there should be no more debates over a guy stretching for the end zone or if he “completed a football move” before the ball was popped out in the future. Except for the times when those debates once again rage on, which will once again happen on a consistent basis.
Dean Blandino, vice president of officiating for the NFL, gave a presentation on rules changes Monday at the Boca Raton Resort, where the league is holding its annual meetings, of which a large portion was spent explaining what constitutes a catch.
He said that NFL luminaries and receivers, such as Randy Moss and Jordy Nelson, gathered with the competition committee over the past few months to review the mechanics of a catch and if there was a need to change the rule. The group concluded that the wording of the rule is fine.
And he’s probably right. The formula is fine how it is. Everyone’s basic understanding of a catch is that it occurs when someone catches the ball, puts two feet down and holds onto the ball for some period of time. The issues occur when defining what is an adequate period of time and what satisfies the mythical “football move” part of the equation.
So what is enough to appease officials during the time period? Blandino said it’s when a player tucks the ball, throws a stiff arm or can run up field. In other words, he has to establish himself as a runner.
OK, but what about when a player catches the ball, stretches for the end zone and loses control? That’s when things get dicey.
“There’s a player who is a runner who can reach and break the plane of the goal line and the receiver who is still attempting to catch the pass,” Blandino said. “It’s the reach or that act of stretching doesn’t trump those three things we talked about — control, two feet plus time — if that reach occurs prior to those three being completed, it doesn’t equate to possession.
“One of the issues we have when you see that play — look, it’s reasonable to say it looks like a catch and should be a catch. But when you get back to consistency of the rule and how it allows our officials to be more consistent, we’re going to ultimate have plays where it looks like a catch but it isn’t.”
If it’s hard to understand how a player could bring the ball out away from his body and stretch out for a first down or touchdown without first controlling the ball — or catching it — then you aren’t alone.
Several of these plays came up last season. Ben Watson was the victim of one. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman was involved in another play that caused issues last season. There’s a good chance you could watch a game every week and come across some form of controversy regarding what is and is not a catch.
Even in a room full of people who are paid to watch the game and report on it, after watching a man paid to rule over the officials throughout the league, no one seemed to come any closer to understanding what is or isn’t a catch.
What it comes down to quite often is a judgment call. That means there are going to continue to be interpretations and debates over these plays.
It’s not always easy. Things happen quickly, and sometimes how it looks in real time is different than how it looks on replay. Most people understand that’s why there are challenges and reviews.
But where the issues arise are with instant replay, and what is often called on the field defies common sense. And Blandino admitted as much when saying a lot of the plays that aren’t catches often look like catches.
It’s hard to know what solution to the problem is. But it shouldn’t be so difficult to define one of the most common acts in the game. Maybe the view here is too simplistic, but it seems like if it looks like a catch, it should be a catch. It’s hard to understand how there is so much debate each week.
If the competition committee’s goal is to improve the game, protect players and make it more enjoyable to watch, those viewing need to be able to understand and follow one of the basic acts of the game.
The formula makes sense, but it starts to fall apart when the league shows its work.