Corey Clement

NFL left cleaning up Troy Vincent's mess on Super Bowl replay

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NFL left cleaning up Troy Vincent's mess on Super Bowl replay

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The lesson to take away from the NFL’s latest game of factual hide-and-seek is this: Troy Vincent doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

In the second half of Super Bowl 52, Eagles running back Corey Clement made a catch at the back of the end zone. Replay showed that, after Clement brought the ball in, he readjusted his grip and -- in that moment -- true control was lost. (Check 3:40 of this video to get a better look.)

By the standards the NFL was going by in 2017, it looked like more than enough to overturn the touchdown and bring on a fourth down for the Eagles.

Eyes widened when the call stood. Former VP of Officiating Mike Pereira theorized that the league told Alberto Riveron to stop being so technical on replay review.

I talk to enough coaches and enough members of the Competition Committee that they weren’t happy, and so I think the word trickled to [NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell and Goodell probably sat down with Alberto, who he has a great amount of respect for, and just said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to realize you need to make an adjustment. You’re being too technical,' ” Pereira said.

But what really lit the wick on this was Troy Vincent, the NFL’s VP of Operations (who has charge of all officials) telling the Dan Patrick Show that, by 2017 standards, the Clement touchdown should have been overturned. Vincent used the Clement touchdown as an illustration of how the play would be called going forward.

“That slight movement of the ball,” said Vincent. "The old language read [if there’s] slight movement, then that means you’ve got to overturn it . . . [Now] you can have movement but you can still maintain control. We removed and got out of the business of slight movement. Because you can have movement but still be in control. The Clement play in the Super Bowl was the best example. The ball moved but he had complete control over the ball through the process of the catch.”

But he didn’t have “complete” control. He wasn’t juggling it but there was definitely some daylight around the ball.  After that bit of looseness, Clement needed to get both feet down in-bounds. He did not:

Had the Patriots been the beneficiaries of the looser interpretation, Philly might be burning still. The Patriots didn’t benefit, so the only people still making an issue of this -- to the delight of the rest of the country -- are up here in the top right corner of the country.

Asked if the league used the new standard to uphold the Clement touchdown, Riveron stated flatly: “No, we did not. In order for us to overturn a call we have to see clearly indisputable evidence. And there was some slight movement but we didn’t see loss of control, we didn’t see indisputable evidence that he didn’t have possession of the football.”

That reply was given at the start of the NFL press conference closing the 2018 Annual Meeting.

Given Vincent’s comment, I felt compelled to follow up to see if Pereira’s theory -- that word came from on high to stop being so technical.

“There was no conversation of, ‘We have to pull back or we have to do it differently,’ ” said Riveron. “Remember, the rule did say slight movement is allowed and that’s exactly what you heard when (referee Gene Steratore, who was miked up) said, ‘Yes, the ball goes from here to here but he never loses control.’

“So there was slight movement and we had numerous occasions during the year where we had slight movement but we did not overturn,” Riveron added. “Did we have all the angles possible? Yes we did. Within those angles we didn’t see anything to make it past slight movement, which is what the rule entails.”

There are two different discussions to have here.

The first is about the rule itself. Clement definitely forfeited full control for a brief moment. If he hadn’t done that, the ball may have come out when he hit the ground. He had to regrip. But in doing so, he took the risk of giving up some control. His finger is still on the ball, for instance, but the ball isn’t by any means secure. Then it’s fully controlled again.

It’s not dissimilar from the Jabar Gaffney touchdown reception that beat the Ravens in 2007. It’s not secure secure but it’s not totally loose. 

The issue is that, 10 years later, the league got to the point where it was closer to all or nothing with control. It’s probably better that they're pulling back.

The other discussion to have is, how can Vincent -- who’s in charge of the officials -- not know the wording of the rule? And how can he be so dense as to get on a national radio program and say that a touchdown in a one-score Super Bowl didn’t meet the standards for a catch and not think people would catch on?

For most of the 2017 season, the Patriots were on the right side of a number of close but correct calls -- the Jesse James touchdown, back-to-back penalties in the AFC Championship Game that gained them huge yardage, the overturned Austin Sefarian Jenkins touchdown. And, as with all things Patriots, the ensuing conversation centered around them getting all the breaks and being the NFL’s pet team. (It’s amazing to me that there are people so dense and ill-informed that I have to even type that sentence.)

The NFL -- which is tremendously rabbit-eared -- knew how much feces would hit the fan if the Pats were seen to benefit in the Super Bowl. So the standard moved.

Call it slight movement, but it moved.

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Report: New catch rule coming to NFL

Report: New catch rule coming to NFL

A new catch rule is coming to the NFL.

So, controversies such as the Jesse James' touchdown reversal in the Steelers' loss to the Patriots in December and the Kelvin Benjamin call in the Bills-Pats game a week later likely would have resulted in upheld TDs under the new rule.

According to the Washington Post, Troy Vincent, the NFL VP of football operations, said competition committee members plan to propose getting rid of portions of the rule related to a receiver going to the ground while making a catch and to slight movement of the football while it’s in the receiver’s hands. Vincent also said the committee also intends to raise the bar by which an on-field ruling of a catch could be overturned via replay review.

That apparently was what was done in Super Bowl 52, when the Eagles' Corey Clement's juggling TD catch was not overturned via replay. 

“We worked backward,” said Vincent told the Post. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule.”

The rule modifications could be approved by the competition committee as early Tuesday, the Post reported, and owners will meet next week in Orlando to vote on it. Rule changes must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 franchises. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been pushing for the catch rule to be modified. 

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Goodell behind lack of reversals in Super Bowl calls?

Goodell behind lack of reversals in Super Bowl calls?

Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira, now a rules analyst on FOX's NFL telecasts, said the lack of reversals of key replay calls in the Super Bowl were likely the result of a league effort to not overturn calls after complaints to commissioner Roger Goodell.

Pereira made his comments on the "Talk of Fame" podcast with veteran NFL writer Clark Judge. He said the current head of officiating, Al Riveron, was probably told by the commissioner to not be so quick to overturn calls via replay. He cited the touchdown catch by the Eagles' Corey Clement against the Patriots - where Clement may not have had control of the ball with both feet down as fell out of the end zone - as an example.

“I talk to enough coaches and enough members of the competition committee that they weren’t happy," Pereria said, "and so I think the word trickled to Goodell and Goodell probably sat down with Alberto, who he has a great amount of respect for, and just said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to realize you need to make an adjustment. You’re being too technical.'” 

NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth had said on the broadcast that the Clement TD might be reversed.    

“[The Clement catch] just wasn’t clear enough," Pereira said. "So I said it would stand...and it did..and I do believe that is the new normal...and probably had been the new normal for the last five weeks or so of the regular season and throughout the playoffs.

“So I wasn’t surprised. But I don’t fault Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth because it’s certainly reasonable to assume, based on the first two-thirds of the season, that they would’ve reversed it.”

The eventual winning TD catch by Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was also reviewed and upheld. Pereira also pointed out, as others have, that on the Eagles' "Philly Special" trick-play TD pass to quarterback Nick Foles, receiver Alshon Jeffery wasn't on the line of scrimmage, making it an illegal formation. 

“I know the league came out and said that it’s a judgment call, which it is,” Pereira said. “The down judge, who was the one [official] that was on his side of the field, they felt that it was his judgment, and [Jeffrey] was close enough. Well, he wasn’t. They lined up wrong."

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