ORLANDO, Fla. -- The league’s 32 teams unanimously approved new standards for defining a catch. As expected.
We’ll see if this is the magic bullet that removes all doubt about what a catch is. Personally, I doubt it.
Instead of the hard-and-fast standard that called for a receiver to control the football through his landing, the league is now opting for more ambiguity.
A player who has two feet down and control of the football can complete the catch by taking a third step, reaching for the line to gain or having “the ability to perform such an act.”
That last bit would make legal the reception by Pittsburgh’s Jesse James in the Steelers' regular-season loss to the Patriots. The football move of reaching for the line would trump the fact James didn’t control it through the ground.
Bill Belichick indicated on Sunday that he was in favor of continuing to tweak the rule.
“We all talk about it a lot,” he said. “It’s a tough one. I think we all want to try to find something that’s simple, that we can all understand, that we can all agree on so that we can all look at the play and say, ‘Okay, it is or it isn’t.’ How do we do that? I think that’s the goal of [VP of Officiating] Al Riveron and the other people involved in that process.
“We’ll have to see how it goes,” he added. “It’s certainly something that we’re all (anxious to see clarified). It’s a tough call. There are a lot of tight calls there. If there’s something we can do to make that better, make the game better, I’m for it. We’re all for it. We’ll have to see what that is.”
The unintended consequences the new rule will usher in may well include more replays, more fumbles and more confusion rather than less.
Former VP of Officiating Dean Blandino told me Monday that he believed the standard and the way the rule was written was on point. It was the application of the rule during replay reviews that went sideways.
Speaking on Mike Florio’s PFT Live on Monday, Blandino said, “Is that going to be harder for the official in real time to make that call consistently? And are we going to have more plays go to replay? Because it feels like this new rule is geared more toward replay than real time officiating on the field.”
Blandino also noted that, if players are judged to be able to make a football move after a catch, shouldn’t they also lose defenseless player status? It is, as Belichick said, a tough call. And it will remain that way regardless of the change enacted Tuesday.