The NFL’s confusing and contradictory catch rules have gotten so out of hand, even NFL owners are complaining.
This past Sunday, the Buffalo Bills were driving down the field against the New England Patriots with seconds left before halftime. Down 13-10, a score here could have a huge impact on the momentum headed into the second half. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor floated a fade into the back corner of the endzone where Kelvin Benjamin caught it and seemingly dragged his feet inbounds just enough for a touchdown.
While it was called good on the field, the timing of the play triggered an automatic review by the NFL’s central replay office. While replays showed that Benjamin had both feet in bounds, some of the camera angles made it hard to say for sure if he had full control of the ball before falling to the ground. The replay officials overturned the call and wrested momentum from the Bills, who went on to lose the game 37-16.
Afterward, scores of fans and NFL pundits voiced their anger and confusing about the decision. Some pointed out that there have been far more dubious “catches” that were allowed to stand while this one was not. Others noted that the rise in overturned calls by replay officials far from the field undercuts the value of the technology, especially when the evidence is inconclusive. The “NFL catch” discussion, which was heating up for weeks now as more examples of dubious catch interpretations pop up, is now reaching fever pitch.
And now Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula is getting involved. Obviously angry about the way the overturned catch affected his team’s chances to win, against the Patriots no-less, he recently shared his thoughts on a local radio station.
“They obviously weren’t looking at the same television the rest of the country was looking at, were they?” Pegula told the Buffalo Sabres’ team-produced radio program. “You know what, you can probably find somebody in this country that disagrees [with the catch], and I know one guy would be [NFL senior vice president of officiating] Al Riveron sitting in New York City.
“But everybody I talked to — and they’re not Bills fans and they’re not necessarily anti-Patriots — they’re all baffled by that call, which just wasn’t consistent with what replay [should be].”
Pegula then called for the league to make changes to the replay system, which seems to be creating more headaches than its solving.
“Replay was developed by this league to correct obviously mistakes,” he said. “And if you got to look at that play 30 times from five different angles, and keep looking at it, and looking at it and looking at it, you go with the call on the field. That’s what the league has been doing ever since replay started. As a matter of fact, Dean Blandino, who was the head of replay last year, said last year that was a touchdown.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but we have to fix it. And I’m not saying that as the owner of the Bills; I’m saying that as a football fan. We can’t have stuff like this happening in our league.”
Pegula added that he expected to hear from the NFL’s front office because of his comments but was unphased by the potential “unfriendly” nature of the call. “I can dish back on unfriendly, too, because it’s a little upsetting.”
It’s practically a sure thing that the league will look into ways to improve instant replay moving forward, but given the way the system has evolved and the problems it’s caused, does anyone expect the NFL to get it right moving forward?