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Cory's Corner: The Catch Must Be Simple Again

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Cory's Corner: The Catch Must Be Simple Again

There is nothing worse than leaving fans constantly confused.

That is what happened this past season when it came to something as simple as the catch.

Instead of making a catch what everyone knows on the sandlot growing up, the NFL turned it into a complicated list of rules that couldn’t be followed even with the guidance of a Sherpa.

This is commissioner Roger Goodell’s biggest problem to fix this offseason. He has said that he will go so far as to rewrite the entire thing — which it desperately needs.

In an age of being politically correct, we don’t need a catch rule to do the same. The catch rule should be utilitarian. That’s all. It should serve a purpose and reward someone for making a catch.

There should be no language about “in the process of” or “football move.” None of that. If you boil it down, the catch comes before any of that stuff anyway.

The reason it needs to be a priority is because the game has increasingly leaned on the pass. Twenty-five teams passed it 55 percent a game last season and nine passed it over 60 percent. (The Packers were No. 7 at 61 percent.)

The league proved how serious it was in the Super Bowl. That’s why the 11-yard touchdown pass to Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was allowed to stand when Steelers tight end Jesse James had his near identical play ruled incomplete in Week 15.

This league wants eyeballs and to remain popular. The easiest way to do that is through simplicity. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (54) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

fastmoving's picture

the catch is not simple at all..............

"In an age of being politically correct".......????? that one went out of the window couple of years ago.

Nick Perry's picture

Without going back and looking at it again I think the Jesse James catch/drop was ruled correctly and the Zack Ertz catch was too.

Without refreshing my memory James caught the ball and fumbled it away as the ball hit the ground. He didn't take any steps or make a "Football Move" IIRC.

The Ertz catch was a catch IMO. He took 3 steps towards the end-zone making an OBVIOUS "Football Move" before crossing the goal-line. He was clearly a runner. If anything the TD to Clements BEFORE the Ertz TD was the one they should be looking at, at least by definition of the rule. Clements clearly bobbled the ball after getting two feet down but hey, lets not give Pats fans more to cry about,

Another is the Dez Bryant DROP as that whinny, motor mouthed Chris Collinsworth brought up yet again!! UGH!!! Bryant may have caught the ball but he didn't maintain position and he sure as hell didn't make a "Football Move" either. Dez caught the ball and FELL FORWARD, he didn't take any steps like Ertz clearly did, he FELL forward and yes, there's a difference. I still can't believe that DROP is still being brought up 4 Superbowls later.

Like everyone else I'm tired of talking about what a catch is or isn't. There's absolutely no consistency from week to week and frankly I grew tired talking about it about a week after the Bryant DROP.

The powers that be need to go lock themselves up in a room and not come out until they've made this simple again. What that exactly looks like I'm not sure. I used to think I knew but the NFL has changed it so many times and now it's just a big ole mess. I'm not the one making millions per year to make those decisions either so just "Get Er Done"!!! But they NEED to do it and do it quickly because the most popular sport in the world took a hit this year and I think at least part of it is for this very reason.

AL...How long after the Combine will the CHTV Draft Guide come out?

Jersey Al's picture

Draft guide always comes out the first week in April. I believe it will be April 7 this year. It will be available for pre-orders the first week in March.

John Kirk's picture

Rule is fine as is and makes sense to me. Enforcement is the issue. I think the NFL wants it that way so it can manipulate certain calls.

Clement "catch" was no catch but talk leading up to SB by Goodell seemed to impact that call. In regulation season that call was a clear overturn.

The TKstinator's picture

You had me at ‘Sherpa’.

dobber's picture

You're such a sucker for Himalayan mountain people...

The TKstinator's picture

Everybody’s got their kryptonite...

John Kirk's picture

I think he meant civil servant or diplomat.

Where did "sherpa" enter this? Is that what you get to do?

dobber's picture

Sherpa...a guide to the top of Everest, or a local mountain person in the Himalayas. It's in the second paragraph above.

marpag1's picture

"something as simple as the catch"

I'm guessing that someone who writes about "something as simple as a catch" has never actually tried to define a catch in writing. And I don't think I would want to see him try.

Seriously, give it a shot and see what you come up with. We'll wait. Do we really think that there can be such a superbly worded rule that all questions and arguments will be avoided? C'mon.

Just get used to it already. These arguments have always existed and will always exist. Before there were cameras mounted in pylons and helmets and skycams and jockstraps, people bitched and moaned, "OH, WE NEED MORE CAMERAS TO CORRECT ALL THESE BAD CALLS!" And then we got a million ultra-high rez, super slo-mo cameras and learned that it certainly didn't clear up all the problems, it only exacerbated them. Maybe the NFL should outlaw cameras?

Just get used to it already.

4thand1's picture

Possession and 2 feet down is a catch if only for a second. If this is where the rule ends up, it'll create a lot more turn overs. Receivers will get rocked from players trying to jar the ball lose, so the big hits will increase.

Cory Jennerjohn's picture

This is perfect. And there is no getting used to it because the NFL has lost the casual fan. Possession with two feet down. Period.

Will more defensive backs be coached to lay more punishing hits? Yes. But I also think it’s time that the defense caught up to the offense at least in the rule book.

dobber's picture

In the era of the concussion, this will never happen.

marpag1's picture

Ah, 'possession.' Righty-O.

And how will you define 'possession?' Have you considered that the entire catch rule is nothing more or less than an attempt to define 'possession?'

dobber's picture


Bearmeat's picture

I think possession most often comes into play when the WR is going to the ground. I think they should say that if the ball touches the ground at any point before the whistle, it's an incompletion.

marpag1's picture

Yeah, that's one troublesome scenario. But still, I think your suggestion is a rather messy definition. Think about a running back who carries the ball and then gets tackled without there being even a hint of a fumble. When he falls to the ground, one tip of the ball or the other is almost certainly going to be touching the grass, even though the ball is still firmly in his grasp. But of course, none of us would say that he fumbled.

So a WR grabs the ball, tucks it away, stumbles for a step or two... and then, just like the running back, falls to the ground and one end of the ball contacts the grass. Did he not catch it? Are we going to expect the WR to stick the ball up into the air so that it can't possibly touch grass?

The same questions come when a guy "gets both feet in bounds" but he's juggling the ball and doesn't really lock it down until after he's knocked down the equipment manager with the rack of gatorade in front of the bench. Hey, he got his feet in. Was it a catch?

Another dude "catches" a ball for a tiny fraction of a second before he is decked by the safety and the ball comes flying out. The ball made solid contact with the palms of both hands.... for about one-tenth of a second. Is it a fumble? Or did he never really have possession?

The problem here is that these are always going to be bang-bang judgment calls, and try as we might to craft the perfect rule, I don't think we will ever be entirely satisfied. That's why I say, "Just get used to it. Always been this way, always will be."

Bearmeat's picture

To be fair, a RB carrying the ball is completely different. As for the rest of your questions - you seem to suggest that the fans get used to it. I am suggesting that a cut and dried rule: "ball shall not touch the ground if the WR is going to the ground as part of the catch" is not perfect, but may be the best possible situation of an impossible situation.

Finwiz's picture

In the scenario you described, the wide receiver caught the ball, took steps, and became a runner. So rule at that point applies just like running backs.
Ball touches ground but he maintains possession, it fumble rule in place, not process of catch. This is what happened on the play in the Steeler game where they ruled he didn't catch it. That was a catch all the way.

I'd reverse the ground causing fumbles rule too. That's a joke.
You hold onto the ball to the point your tackled and stop moving, or it's a fumble. They've made that rule into a joke where guys don't even TRY to maintain control of the ball when being tackled. Sloppy game it's become.

Finwiz's picture

>>if the ball touches the ground at any point before the whistle, it's an incompletion<<

Exactly. Relatively simple isn't it.

Arthur Jackson's picture

You guys have forgotten how the "Bert Emanuel Rule" came about. It was outrage just like now, except in the opposite direction.

Finwiz's picture

Yeah, in reviewing that, in the strictest sense of what I'd want for the rule, that WAS NOT a catch. Why? The ball touched the ground, and aided him in possessing it. He should have put an arm UNDER the ball to have it between the ground and the ball to make that a completion.

Ground can't aid in catching the ball. Sorry.

David Kemp's picture

I have a number of things , Interfearance penalties Have to change!!! I beleive a 15 yard penalty for the foul. Defensivie holdinng av 5-yard ,penalty,automatic 1st down. Penalties at the spot of the foul is excesessive & favors thje offense!!!!!!

croatpackfan's picture

OK! And than you have sure catch for 60 yards10 seconds before end of game for TD and DB decide to make PI, because that will be just 15 yards from line of scrimmage and he saved sure TD and lost for his team...

How is that fair?

Arthur Jackson's picture

You beat me to it. That is exactly right Croat!

mrtundra's picture

Coaches should be able to review penalties. I don't want to make the game any longer than it has to be, but some of those penalties are really bad calls.

Bearmeat's picture

I think Belichick had it right 7 years ago: Coaches should be able challenge anything. Any call or part of a play. But they only get 2. And an extra one if they get those 2 right.

snowdog's picture

Good as long as the review is 2 minutes as the RULE states . No more .
If the call cannot be or not be within that RULE , the play stands as called .

Bearmeat's picture


fastmoving's picture

so they challenge every call against them.......what do they have to lose? the games will be 4 hours at least.....

Savage57's picture

In trying to add objective qualification to the definition of a catch, the NFL decided to add something as incredibly subjective as, "making a football move" as on of the prime determinants.

Step one, get rid of that. One man's 'football move' is another's 'incidental action subsequent to the play'.

Step two, get rid of the aspect of the rule that stipulates the receiver must maintain possession through contact with the ground. Since the ground can't cause a fumble, how in the hell can it cause an incompletion? Either that or can the whole idea and go back to the idea that any and every player, on every play, has to maintain possession through contact with the ground. Consistency would make this easier.

Catch it, show control (ie, no ball movement), two feet down, voila, a catch! Everything following that gets judged as subsequent to, not a part of, a catch.

fthisJack's picture

Exactly. simple and concise. screw that football move...process of the catch BS!

Finwiz's picture

Ball can't touch ground at ANY point, or no catch!
That's the one thing I would add. The way it used to be.
Ground can't be used in any way to aid the process of the catch.

Finwiz's picture

So there's actually THREE clowns that think the ground should be used in aiding a catch? Seriously? Must be millennials.
How about we put skirts on the QB's too, and make the rules TAG football for them, so you won't have to see your favorite player get hurt, and run to mommy to find out WHY that happened?
Good Lord.

Savage57's picture

From Finwiz's reports card throughout grade school:

"While he gives admirable effort, reading comprehension still escapes him. Also struggles with nuance and instead lashes out when he doesn't understand something."

Ryan Graham's picture

simplicity is the perfect world solution. I'm afraid it is too late for that after do many perspectives and question marks were brought to the table. That said, I fancy myself knowledgeable of the game ad most of us do. I also find myself frustrated watching games not knowing what a true catch is today.

It won't go back to the old 'two feet with posession' definition with the protection of players - particularly offensive players. I remove myself from this group because I appreciate football for the gladiator sport it is and the toughness it requires at all positions. But nonetheless something needs to change.

I believe the compromise lies with two things: Clarity first, and more importantly IMO is consistency.

The TKstinator's picture

Who was that politician years ago who said, “I can’t DEFINE pornography, but I know it when I see it”??

That’s how I feel about a “catch”.

marpag1's picture

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964.

Perhaps even more apropos are the words he said just before "I know it when I see it." He said, "I shall not today attempt further to define ["hard-core porn"], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so..."

THAT is the problem with the catch rule. We can write endless hair-splitting definitions in an effort to define a catch, and "could never succeed in intelligibly doing so."

snowdog's picture

I like " the - show - of - hands "

fastmoving's picture

but you cant put that in the rulebook.........
maybe a picture of a catch....

stockholder's picture

It use to be the whistle ended the play. Process. two feet down! Whistle ends the play.

Since &#039;61's picture

Regrettably the current speed of NFL play has moved beyond the "two feet down with possession" era. I do agree with Savage 57 that the football move part of the process should be removed.

Diving catches and bobbled plays are the difficult calls especially when the end zone is involved. There are many plays where a receiver has 2 feet down but the ball slips through his hands on the way down and is covered up once the receiver is down. To be fair those are incompletions.

When does possession take place is the key to defining this process. This is critical as it determines incompletions versus fumbles. However the NFL decides to resolve this it needs to be applied consistently by the officials. It cannot change from game to game and play to play as it appears to happen currently.

I hope that Goodell involves players, officials, and obviously the competition committee into the discussion. Clarity and consistency should be the primary goals of any final result. I hope Goodell stays out of the process once he gets the necessary participants together. Thanks, Since '61

flackcatcher's picture

The NFL is in this mess because of Goodell's meddling. Fixing this would mean the league office would have to take responsibility for centralizing decisions that should be made on the field, are instead being made in the NFL HQ. NCAA got this right. Catch one foot down held ball, game official makes the call, end of story. Making things right is all not that hard. It requires the owners and players to accept final call belongs to the game officials, with review on the field. The catch rule is easy to fix. it is all the crap the has grown up around it that makes this hard, stupid NFL league politics, and a commissioner who loves holding on to his power is the real problem here.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

The chase is everything and the catch is nothing. lol

Finwiz's picture

It's really pretty simple, any reception with hands on the ball, without the ball touching the ground at ANY point, with 2 feet in bounds, is a catch. No more of this ball movement BS, and the receiver had control, even though the tip of the ball touched the ground. That's BS. Ground should never be a factor in aiding a catch in any way. Ball touches ground, one or two feet out of bounds with possession (HOLDING BALL in HANDS...not TOUCHING ground) = no catch.

The breaking the plane of the GL is BS too....they should be forced to keep possession (HOLD the BALL in YOUR HANDS) thru the entire catch, and not have it knocked out while reaching over the goal line, and that still being a TD. Break the plane of the GL, but you better hold on to the ball. They made this thing way too complicated. Same with fumbles, but that's another story.

croatpackfan's picture

Define possesion

Finwiz's picture

Defined above - read. If you don't know what that is, then I guess you don't know football.

croatpackfan's picture

So, if you have the possesion and fall on the ball, ball touches the ground, but there is no movement of the ball it is still no catch?

Or, you catch the ball with one (ONE; 1) hand it is not catch as you need to have 2 hands (not one hand) on the ball to be catch...

"The breaking the plane of the GL is BS too....they should be forced to keep possession (HOLD the BALL in YOUR HANDS) thru the entire catch, and not have it knocked out while reaching over the goal line, and that still being a TD." - Well, I think you messed receiving and running TD. When you are runner, you have the ball in your hands and breaking the plane is TD, as it is outbound if you are one mm step out of bounds... But, if you are receiver (like it was that Steelers TE) and you broke the plane and loses the ball it is incomplete catch...

So, what are you talking about?

The TKstinator's picture


The TKstinator's picture

My definition of possession would be what happened to Linda Blair.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Someone disliked possession is what happened to Linda Blair!

The TKstinator's picture

Might’ve been Satan..
Getting cast out is cause for disgruntlement.

Duneslick's picture

Packer Greg says both call were correct. The pittsburgh player was stretching and diving to make the catch and lost the ball when he hit the ground. In the super bowl the receiver caught the ball standing up and ran 3 steps and while being tackled stretched to the goal line as a runner. The 2 plays were not similar at all but some fans ignore that and use it as an excuse for losing the game.

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