What Is A Catch/What Is Not A Catch…

Roger Goodell announced last week that the NFL would create a committee to think about possible revisions to the NFL rule governing what is a catch and what is not a catch. That committee would then make its recommendations to the Competition Committee – who has studied this matter in the past and is the group that came up with the head-spinning rule that exists today – and then, the Competition Committee might suggest rule changes to the NFL and the NFLPA that might go into effect… Calculating the value of pi to 1000 decimal places using only a pencil and a notepad might not take as long to reach a result.

However, I prefer to be a problem-solver as opposed to a problem; therefore, I present to this new Yet-To-Be-Named Committee a simple place to start as they seek to define what is a catch and what is not a catch:

    When a receiver controls the ball and gets two feet down – or his knee, elbow, butt or some other part of his anatomy – that is a catch.

    When he can only control the ball and only get one foot down, that is not a catch.

    When he controls the ball – two feet down – and then hits the ground and loses the ball, that is a fumble.

Yes, there are still elements of judgment in those suggestions meaning that there will be the need for replays/challenges and there will still be some elements of controversy in the calls. Nonetheless, I do think my suggested rule change will be less controversial – it is certainly briefer and simpler than the current rule(s) – and should be worth consideration.

Oh, and while I am at it, I have another suggestion for the Competition Committee’s consideration:

    Just as “what is a catch/what is not a catch” is a mystery, another mystery is “what is pass interference/who committed said pass interference”. Having watched hundreds upon hundreds of replays of pass receptions and pass interference calls/non-calls, it almost seems as if these calls can be made with a flip of the coin in 75% of the cases.


      1. Change the penalty for defensive pass interference to the same one that exists for offensive pass interference. Make it 10-yards and an automatic first down. Why should defensive pass interference result in a 50-yard penalty when offensive pass interference cannot be more than 10 yards? That seems a bit out of balance…

      2. Allow receivers and defenders to contact one another/hand fight/whatever until the moment the pass is thrown. Then, if there is any contact other than making a play on the ball as it arrives for reception/interception/incompletion, that is pass interference on the player who makes the first contact.

Now that my work is done with the NFL for today, let me turn my attention to college football for a moment. David Shaw is the head coach at Stanford and has shown himself to be highly competent in that position and a thoughtful man when it comes to what is good for the sport of college football. I took notice of the following remark in large measure because it was attributed to David Shaw; if it had come from a half dozen other college coaches who shall remain nameless here, I would likely have not paid it much mind:

“I do believe at some point it’s going to be an eight-team playoff. I think it’s going to be unavoidable. I’m not upset by any stretch of the imagination. I just know this year is a part of the process where you have these teams in Stanford and Iowa and Ohio State that you could make a case could be in a playoff, and it would be a phenomenal playoff. So I have no problems with where we are now. I just do believe eventually, it will become an eight-team playoff because it’s the only thing that makes sense.”

I agree completely with David Shaw that the CFP will eventually expand to 8 teams. I do not agree that the reason for that expansion will be to accommodate four more teams for which one “could make a case could be in a playoff”; rather, the expansion will be driven by the economics of the matter. Money talks…

I too like where we are now; the CFP as it is configured is a light-year better than the BCS was and the BCS was a light-year better than what existed when polls were taken after the big-time bowl games were played and a “national champion” was elected in an off-the-field process. I am happy with a four-team field and can continue to live with that for a long time. However, you will not hear me screech about the insanity of expanding the field to eight teams when that comes to pass maybe 5 years from now.

However, when the discussion of expansion/non-expansion heats up, let me put down a marker right now:

    It is ridiculous to say that expansion to 8 teams will eliminate the controversy about who is admitted to the playoffs and who is not. That sort of controversy/tempest-in-a-teapot will continue to happen until or unless the CFP includes each and every team playing Division 1-A football.

    If you doubt that statement, consider that there are now 68 teams in the March Madness field and there are discussions ever year about what team was unjustly denied a chance to be in the Big Dance.

Note that David Shaw named 3 teams he believes can and should be in a college football playoff this year. If you take his nominees and add them to the existing field that would give you 7 teams and the need to add an eighth. So, just for fun, let me posit that the second tier of 4 teams would be Iowa, Ohio State, Stanford and – – Notre Dame. Surely you do not believe that the folks in Tallahassee (Florida State), Chapel Hill (UNC) and/or Houston (Houston) would unanimously agree that was the only logical field of 8 teams. The tournament will expand because there is a ton of money to be made by expanding. However, the screeching and whining about who is in and who is not in the tournament will not go away.

Finally, Brad Dickson had these comments recently in the Omaha World-Herald about a college bowl game at the other end of the spectrum from the CFP games – the Foster Farms Bowl to be played in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara CA:

“Nebraska has been selected to play in the Foster Farms Bowl. That’ll teach the team to go 5-7.

“The Foster Farms Bowl features a 5-7 Nebraska team vs. UCLA, a team Nebraska has played multiple times in recent years. The best way to sell this game to Husker fans may be to publicize the typical high temperature here [in Nebraska] on Dec. 26.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

4 thoughts on “What Is A Catch/What Is Not A Catch…”

  1. I think the CFP field will continue to expand until it reaches the point where Notre Dame is included.

    What I wish for is that the NCAA would name the top eight conferences and declare a championship series for Div 1 football that includes those eight conference champions. I think that is the only sport without an NCAA champion for its division.

    Amen to your rules changes.

    1. Doug:

      If you required each of your “Eight Top Conferences” to have 12 members that would make 96 teams eligible for the CFP Championship Game. I would be willing to ignore the bleatings of the “outsider schools” but I am not sure everyone would be. I would add one other stipulation:

        Each conference of 12 teams will have all 12 member schools play each other once a season. That leaves each team exactly 1 other game they can schedule against a team not in their conference. That would minimize the games between Enormous State University and the Alabama Asthmatics Institute.
  2. “When he controls the ball – two feet down – and then hits the ground and loses the ball, that is a fumble.”

    That can’t be a fumble because the ground cannot cause a fumble. The player should be ruled down, or it should be an incompletion because losing the ball would be evidence that the receiver did not control it.

    1. Gil:

      The current rules make distinctions between runners and receivers when it comes to control of the ball. I purposely want to make the pass reception rule one where the ground CAN cause a fumble. In that situation, a ball that has been controlled by the receiver and “comes loose” when he hits the ground may be recovered by the receiver (same as a completed pass) or by a defender. It would add another level of skill for receivers to master.

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