Overthinking the Rules

Posted on March 25th, by Rob Scichili in All, NFL. No Comments

What constitutes a catch in a football game anyway?

That’s really the biggest mystery surrounding the NFL since 2010 when Calvin Johnson came down with a ball in the end zone and immediately set it down, only to have it disallowed by replay because he did not “make a football move” afterward while still in possession of the football. The same ridiculous rule victimized Dez Bryant and the Cowboys just 10 weeks ago at Green Bay in the playoffs.

sam-shields-dez-bryant-nfl-divisional-round-dallas-cowboys-green-bay-packers-850x560Both plays should have been legitimate catches, yet both were reversed because of a moronic rule that frankly has been overthought. And just when I thought the NFL couldn’t make the rule any more unclear, the owners voted this week to change the verbiage in the rule to now read that “the pass-catcher needs to establish himself as a runner after gaining possession of the ball.”

OK, so instead of a “football move” he must establish himself as a runner. Meanwhile, a double toe-tap on a catch before going out of bounds will work as well. Excuse me? That play doesn’t have any situation where the pass-catcher is now a runner. He caught the ball, plain and simple. So did Johnson and Bryant, but that didn’t stop the NFL from reversing both calls.

Dean Blandino, the NFL’s supervisor of officials, believes that this new language in the rule will clear up the confusion. Sorry, Dean, but you just piled on more confusion to a rule that is stupid. What are you guys going to do on a play when a pass-catcher dives, grabs the ball with both hands in the air and hits the ground? He never established himself as a runner, so I guess it’s no catch?

How about this – let’s throw this rule out the window and simply let great athletic receivers make incredible plays? These guys are actually better than the rules the NFL is inventing. Stop this madness.

But the NFL continues its overthinking. Extra points have become a hot topic at the owners meetings this week, with talk of moving it to the 15-yard-line or even moving the point-after attempt to the one-yard line to encourage coaches to go for two-point conversions more often. The Indianapolis Colts even proposed rewarding a team that successfully makes a two-point conversion with a “bonus point” attempt from distance for a potential nine-point touchdown.

Sounds like someone wants to create more potential for fantastic finishes. I’ve always stood by my belief that all the NFL needs to do to create more suspense at the end of games (and first halves, for that matter) would be to adopt the college rule of stopping the clock on first downs, but only in the final two-minutes of a half.

At least the owners got something right this week; the blackout rule has been suspended for at least one year, meaning that every game in the league will be seen in the home market despite a sellout or not. This is simply more proof that the NFL is a TV league and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Rob Scichili

Rob Scichili (shick-lee) has worked in professional sports for over 24 years in PR and communications, including time with the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, MLB.com, Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks. A journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he is co-owner and editor at ScoreboardTx, principal at Shick Communications and VP at Franchise Sports & Entertainment while serving on the board of the Mike Modano Foundation.

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