By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Washington Post’s Mark Maske reported on Tuesday about changes to the NFL’s catch rule. And he’s bringing some good news for people who are fed up with the league poring over every frame of film showing every centimeter on a football field to try to determine what is and what is not a catch.
Maske talked to the league’s executive vice president, Troy Vinent, who said that the league will allow for some “slight movement” of the ball and will eliminate the required element of “going to the ground.” The competition committee can finalize its rules on Tuesday and then present them to the owners for approval next week. And in what is the most pleasant news for all sports fans to hear, it seems like the NFL is interested in curbing those long replays that take catches away from players who probably deserve it.
“We’ll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable,” Vincent told Maske.
Obviously, the Patriots were involved in some CONTROVERSIAL CALLS regarding catches last year. There was the Jesse James play, when the Steelers’ tight end extended the ball before hitting the ground and lost control of the football, resulting in an incomplete ruling on replay. There was also Corey Clement’s touchdown in the Super Bowl, when the Eagles running back slightly bobbled the football while tapping his feet in the back of the end zone, but nevertheless was awarded the score after a replay review.
Those are some big ones. But one play that received less attention but was most indicative of the NFL’s problem involved the Buffalo Bills playing in Foxboro on Christmas Eve. On that day, Kelvin Benjamin caught a touchdown. Plain and simple. The man made a great catch. Only if you really wanted to force replay into the game could you say that he did not make the touchdown catch. That’s precisely what Alberto Riveron did, ruling on replay that Benjamin’s foot was off the ground when the receiver finally gained control of the football.
The ruling was so objectively bad that Riveron felt compelled to create a video to explain his reasoning. In that video, he drew an arrow on the screen and said, “That foot is off the ground.”
He reiterated: “We have one foot on the ground, and again, we have the other foot off the ground.”
Do we, Al? Do we really?
Let’s zoom in there, Al:
And, for clarity, let’s run Riveron’s quote back: “That foot is off the ground right now. … That foot is off the ground. That foot is off the ground.”
So desperate to try to warp reality, Riveron threw in TWO MORE arrows:
And what did Riveron say after boldly adding these two new arrows?
“We have one foot on the ground,” he declared. So far so good. All right, Al. How are we going to close this one?
“And we have one foot off the ground.”
No we don’t.
How are you going to sit there and tell the world that definitively, that foot is off the ground? How are you going to take a touchdown away from that man and that team?
That play, more than any, spotlighted the issues that have plagued the league in recent years. All too often, dynamite athletic feats were negated by a man watching a video screen thousands of miles away. It too often eliminated excitement from the game, and instead of working to correct on-field mistakes, replay grew to create a whole new slate of mistakes of its own.
It wasn’t about any “rule,” per se. It was about Riveron assuming an overly aggressive role for replay in the sport, expending far too much energy to find reasons to take catches off the board. The Benjamin overruling was just one play, but something like that seemed to pop up 10 times across the league every Sunday. The NFL didn’t really need an overhaul; it just needed someone better to be in charge of replay.
Nevertheless, the NFL is now bringing back the old standard, which technically was never written out of the rules.
And now, according to Troy Vincent, the infamous Dez Bryant playoff incompletion will indeed be a catch going forward. And Jesse James dropping the ball upon hitting the ground will now be a catch.
At least there won’t be any more controversy and confusion in these games anymore. What a relief.