The NFL is reportedly close to changing what is and what is not a catch. Per a report from The Washington Post, details for a new catch rule could be finalized as early as Tuesday in preparation to be presented to owners during the annual league meeting next week in Orlando.
From our story: The competition committee plans to finalize its catch rule proposal today and present it to the owners next week at the annual league meeting in Orlando.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 20, 2018
It appears the league will be reversing course on the major aspects of the catch rule that made it confusing in the first place. According to NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, who is quoted in the article, the changes were made by working backwards from plays that should have been considered catches.
This new version of the catch rule will reportedly eliminate a need for reversal with a slight movement of the ball, which came into play when an Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdown was reversed to a turnover and touchback in Week 6.
A receiver going to the ground will also no longer have to maintain possession through the entire process, which would have award catches to the likes of Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and Jesse James.
From now on, slight movement of football in receiver's hands detected on replay will not overturn a catch, as long as receiver maintains control of football. Also, no requirement to maintain control of football on turf on a catch made while going to ground.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 20, 2018
Replay standards will also be changed with “indisputable video evidence” needed rather than the current “clear and obvious” benchmark, which was rarely clear nor obvious. That should hopefully take away some of the guesswork done by referees and the replay officials in New York during games.
NFL's Troy Vincent in our story: “Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we’ll reverse that. Going to the ground, it looks like that’s going to be eliminated. And we’ll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable.”— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 20, 2018
This is clearly a much needed change to the rules. With each addition to the catch rule, the rule itself became more unclear. Even when the rule was correctly implemented on the field, it rarely meshed with common sense.
No longer will there be confusion between the difference of Jesse James’s non-catch (immediately turning and going to the ground) and Zach Ertz’s Super Bowl touchdown (becoming a runner before going to the ground). With the new rules, both would be touchdowns scored against the New England Patriots.
The rule change will also likely add a few more “the ground can’t cause a fumble” arguments and replays, but with that should be more should-be catches ruled catches on the field and held up by replay.
It’s also a good sign Vincent and the others who worked on the rule reverse engineered the changes from catches they believed should have been catches on the field. Making a rule without thinking of the practical on-field implementation is how the catch rule became so convoluted in the first place.
Other rule change proposals reported in The Washington Post story include a 15-yard limit on pass interference penalties, a 40-second limit for a coach’s challenge after the end of a play, and an expansion of defenseless-play rules. Specifics of those proposals will continue to be worked on leading up the league meetings next week.