The NFL has been mired in the “What’s a catch?” infinity loop for years, and there’s not an end in sight. Every week, we get a few new examples of the catch rules being applied in inconsistent fashion, while also frequently seeing calls on the field overturned despite a lack of anything resembling overwhelming evidence.
Now, the league is attempting to overhaul the rule, and head of officiating Al Riveron tweeted out the proposed language:
After much deliberation & input from coaches, players, @NFLLegends, & club executives, the @NFL Competition Committee will recommend the following language simplifying the catch rule at the Annual Meeting next week. pic.twitter.com/hJwH5YYBRK
— Al Riveron (@alriveron) March 21, 2018
So the elements required for a catch, under this new, clarified, simplified rule, include the following: control, two feet down (or another body part), and a football move such as a third step, reaching/extending with the ball, or the ability to perform such an act.
Hilariously, it’s not clear whether you need something from all three categories; presumably you don’t, although control is probably paramount. But the very first rule is inherently subjective. What does control mean? That’s the entire problem with the current rule! Also subjective: the ability to perform such an act, tacked on as a qualification on the football move section. What the hell does that mean? How can officials possibly apply these in the proper context?
That the NFL would go to such trouble to do this only to release it via Al Riveron’s Twitter, in poorly worded, hard-to-read graphic form, really does seem fitting. And it’s not simplifying the rule at all. Even if in the impetus for the change was to eliminate the “complete the process” debate, does it really even do that?
I guarantee if this passes we will spend the next X years asking what exactly "control" means? Amazing how nobody is addressing the most subjective and judgement-based aspect of the rule. https://t.co/100mBvdrbp
— Brad Gagnon (@Brad_Gagnon) March 21, 2018
There’s nothing wrong with trying to simplify the rule, but there’s a major difference between simplification and just using fewer words to describe the same basic rules. The latter is in fact much worse, because the crux of why people hate the current rule is the inconsistency of its application. This does nothing to solve that.
At least extending for the goal-line is, in theory, no longer going to create a fumble situation. But can anyone really assume that’s going to be the case? It honestly shouldn’t be this hard to define a fundamental part of the sport, but here we are.