Posted by Ryan Wilson
Every offseason, the NFL's competition committee convenes to discuss which rules to add, modify or scrap altogether. Mike Pereira, the former NFL Vice President of Officiating who now works for Fox Sports, writes Monday that in anticipation of the 2011 season, 121 NFL officials just completed a three-day clinic in Dallas where, among other things, they were apprised of the rules changes.
Some new rules were met with outspoken criticism (unsurprisingly, James Harrison took the lead on that), although the most controversial decision had to be the one that resulted in no change at all.
Last season, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had a touchdown overturned against division rival Chicago after it was determined that he hadn't met all the criteria for what the NFL considered a legal catch. Crazy us, we just thought it involved, you know, catching the ball in the end zone.
If you can stand it, here's the play in question:
No matter how many times we watch that replay, we always expect it to be ruled a touchdown since it looks ... just like a touchdown.
Pereira explains why, in fact, the pass thrown to Johnson is still considered incomplete.
"There were no substantial changes to the catch rule. There are three elements to a catch when going to the ground. First, you must get total control. Second, you must get both feet or another body part down. Third, and the trickiest, you must maintain control throughout the entire process of going to and hitting the ground. The ground can cause an incompletion in the field of play or end zone. The competition committee affirmed that the pass to Johnson was incomplete as the ball came out of his control when it hit the ground. He completed the first two elements of the catch but not the third."
This will placate almost certainly no one, but to quote every coach or athlete to ever talk to the media, "It is what it is." Moving on...
A rules change everyone can get behind: every scoring play will automatically be reviewed. The goal is to reduce missed calls and save coaches from wasting challenges, but Pereira notes that there will be unintended consequences, too. "There will be a lot more replay stoppages in 2011, and the length of games will increase. Neither of those is good for the game."
On this last point we can all agree. Presumably, even James Harrison.
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