At a time in which almost all television is seeing its ratings decline, the last thing anybody can afford is to have confusion about its product. That is why it is an imperative for the NFL this offseason to once and for all successfully revise its catch rule, because it’s hard to watch a game that so innately involves catching footballs if you can’t define what a catch it.
While the catch rule controversy has been brewing for years now, it really came to a head this past offseason and it took one of the league’s premiere franchises, the Pittsburgh Steelers, to be exploited by it before the wheels were really put in motion to explore a more meaningful fix than previous ‘tweaks’.
During a critical late-season game against the New England Patriots, Steelers tight end Jesse James initially appeared to have scored what would have been a go-ahead touchdown from the 10-year line in the final minute of the game. It was ruled a touchdown on the field, but it went to further review and was ruled an incomplete pass.
That James play was highlighted yesterday by head of officiating Al Riveron as one of a number of plays that the Competition Committee is going to take a closer look at this offseason as it works to revise the catch rule. Another play you might have noticed was the Corey Clement touchdown in the Super Bowl, which was upheld as a catch after further review. A Larry Fitzgerald target is also included in the video that Riveron shared on Twitter.
Over the past several days, the @NFL Competition Committee has been reviewing the process of a catch. The first two elements are control and two feet down. Additional elements are also under consideration. Here are a few of the plays we are looking at. pic.twitter.com/Ny3xs3vfst
— Al Riveron (@alriveron) March 19, 2018
Noting that the Competition Committee has been reviewing “the process of a catch” over the course of the past several days, Riveron noted that “the first two elements are control and two feet down”, adding that “additional elements are under consideration”.
One thing that has been talked about is eliminating the ‘going to the ground’ language, which has been one of the most controversial features of the rule, and the aspect that hurt James. Because he was deemed to be going to the ground as he took possession of the ball, he was required to maintain control of the ball throughout contact with the ground because he did not establish himself prior to that as a runner (which many Steelers fans argue otherwise).
Will James be the latest member of the Steelers to have a ‘rule’ informally named after him? There is already the Mel Blount rule and the Hines Ward rule, among others that I’m forgetting. Then there’s the actual Rooney Rule. Perhaps, in contrast to the Blount and Ward rules, James’ rule will actually empower players further rather than restrict them.
It shouldn’t be too long now before we get more details about where the catch rule is headed. The Annual League Meetings will commence on the 25th, where the owners will hear from the Competition Committee and potentially vote on a change to the catch rule.