By Tim Baffoe–
(670 The Score) In 2010, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions caught it. In 2014, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys caught it. In 2017, Jesse James of the Pittsburgh Steelers caught it.
That I need not explain context for those incidents shows how dumb the NFL’s interpretation or lack thereof of what’s a catch has been an annual exercise in lunacy for years now. One of the most popular discussions involving its product has been deep flaws in the rules, which doesn’t do much to help the league’s issues with more viewers becoming disinterested. When too often the trending topics and snark on social media are almost weekly issues with what are eyes are telling us is real but the zebras are begging to differ, you’d think that some committee might get on top of fixing the problem.
Well, hey, one did. On Tuesday, the NFL competition committee banged their pomaded domes together and agreed that a dude wrapping his hands around a football or embracing it into his bosom for what’s clearly a state of control should be called a catch. The “going to the ground” baloney will likely no longer be part of the determination.
“I think where we are unanimous,” committee member and New York Giants owner John Mara told ESPN on Tuesday, “(are) plays like the Dez Bryant play in Green Bay, going to the ground, (and) the Calvin Johnson play from a couple of years ago. I think all of us agree that those should be completions. So let’s write the language to make them completions.”
“The Jesse James play, I think should be a completion, but I’m not sure we’re unanimous on that. But plays where guys seem to make the catch and then make a football move with it, I think most of us agree those should be completions. Now it’s just a question of coming up with the right language.”
Oh happy day. It would appear that our long national nightmare of amazing athletes accomplishing amazing feats only to have hall monitors in New York gut-punchingly “well, actually” them is over. It’s a tick pleasantly backward to football being what we used to watch and understand before the NFL got too drunk on regulating play and making referees arbiters of the asinine.
Commissioner Roger Goodell even hinted prior to the Super Bowl that this day was coming. After telling Fox Sports Radio that he was “not just somewhat concerned, I am concerned” that fans no longer know what the hell a catch is, he followed up at his annual press conference.
“From our standpoint, I would like to start back, instead of adding to the rule, subtracting the rule,” Goodell said. “Start over again and look at the rule fundamentally from the start. Because I think when you add or subtract things you can still lead to confusion. These rules are very complex — you have to look at what the unintended consequences are of making a change, which is what the competition committee, in my view, does so well and with so much thought.
“We’re trying to supplement that here a little bit by … giving them some thought (and) starters of the ideas we think we can focus on. … Clearly catch, no-catch has been a lot of discussion and a lot of disagreement … and I think we can clarify this rule and I think we can do it with a lot of hard work (and) focus and get to a place where — I’m not going to tell you there won’t be controversy, but I believe we can get to a much better place.”
That’s a lot of typical Goodellspeak for “Yeah, this is really stupid.” And then a bunch of owners agreed with him. And then the owners for once got together and around a lunch that probably cost as much as the Department of Defense paying a team for forced patriotism and decided that an obvious catch that doesn’t stand shall not stand.
A rule change won’t make the Steelers’ loss to the New England Patriots in December null. It’s not going to make Cowboys fans any less insufferable. And the fact that it’s not yet clear how the rule will be modified and could totally still be needlessly convoluted because, hey, it’s still the NFL.
“It’s easy to say the rule has got to be changed,” Mara said, “but coming up with the right language is a challenge.”
But at least it seems likely that we’ll have one less actual football thing to yell about. Instead, we can channel the majority of that reserve angst into productive, reasoned discussions about all of the game’s intersections with politics.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for 670TheScore.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not Entercom or our affiliated radio stations.