Apparently, the NFL wants everyone to go back to school, and I am not talking about a showing of the 1986 comedy classic “Back to School” staring Rodney Dangerfield.
The NFL’s plan to take people back to school has nothing to do with classrooms, teachers and chalkboards.
Instead, it’s all about educating the public about what defines a catch in the NFL.
For several years, it seems, everyone was complaining about what constitutes a catch in the NFL. Fans complained about it. The media complained about it. Heck, even some players have their gripes about it.
With so many people complaining about it, one would think the NFL would address the problem.
Guess again.
During this week’s annual league meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., NFL owners will be addressing many issues facing the league, including player safety, off-the-field issues and a variety of on-the-field rules.
But one thing not on the agenda is what defines a catch. Apparently, the NFL’s competition committee does not think there is a problem with the catch rule.
Troy Vincent, the league’s football operations chief, stated last week that the NFL will put more emphasis on education and enforcement of the three current catch rule considerations: gaining possession, getting two feet down inbounds and player safety.
How will that help everyone understand what is a catch in the NFL?
The NFL’s rule as to what constitutes a catch is pretty simple. An NFL catch is basically having control of the ball plus two feet down and having the ball long enough to become a runner. However, if the receiver falls to the ground in an attempt to make a catch, he must maintain control of the ball after making contact with the ground.
It sounds easy enough, but there are many inconsistencies with the interpretation of the rule that have caused problems on the field.
One week, a play may be ruled a catch, but the following week, it is called an incomplete pass.
Those inconsistencies have resulted in outrage by fans and caused confusion for head coaches.
One call questioned by a head coach happened in the Arizona Cardinals’ 26-20 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers in a NFC divisional playoff game. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy questioned whether Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had maintained control of a 22-yard sideline reception late in the third quarter.
McCarthy was frustrated by the catch ruling and summed it up with a great quote: “I don’t know what the hell a catch is anymore. It’s ridiculous.”
If a head coach with nearly 30 years of NFL experience is confused by a rule, then — guess what — there is a problem with it.
People have been questioning the NFL’s catch rule for quite some time, but the league would rather look the other way and not tackle the problem head-on (no pun intended).
Education may be the NFL’s plan to handle this problem, but if the rule comes back to cost a Super Bowl championship, everyone will be pointing the finger at one person — Commissioner Roger Goodell.
— Brent St. Germain is the sports editor of The Houma (La.) Courier and The Thibodaux (La.) Daily Comet. He can be reached by e-mail at brent.st.germain@houmatoday.com.