NFL Competition Committee – What’s A Catch?

Kate Arhar
Our Turf Senior Editor

By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8 

The NFL Competition Committee will host it’s annual meetings March 25-28 in Orlando, FL. There are two really “hot” topics on this year’s agenda:  Pass Interference Penalties and Catch/No-Catch.

Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations, and Rich McKay, Competition Committee Chairman and President/CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, hosted a conference call today with some insights into what they saw happen during the 2017-18 season and to preview some of the items up for discussion at this year’s meeting.

To recap 2017, parity seems to be alive and well in the NFL.  Eight of the twelve playoff teams this year were not in the playoffs in 2016. Two of this year’s playoff teams were last in their division last year and moved to first, one actually won the Super Bowl. In fact, eight of the past fifteen seasons have seen at least one team move from “worst to first.”

Rookies had a large impact on the 2017 season. They acquired over 22,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 177 touch downs. These are both the highest numbers since 1970.

Changes to the Celebration Rule have been well received, resulting in more fan enjoyment and less unsportsmanlike penalties.

The overtime period drop from 15 minutes down to 10 minutes has also had a good effect on the game. There were 14 games that went to OT last year, none resulted in a tie. And, most importantly to players, there were fewer total plays than in prior years.

A quick couple facts, in case you didn’t know them, about the Competition Committee before we get to the two big items. First, requests can be submitted by players, teams or officials. All submissions are considered and then some are selected for placement on the yearly meeting agenda. Second, the committee doesn’t really say “Yes, we like this” or “No, we don’t like this.”  It’s more like the Supreme Court as in “The committee is in favor of this by a 6-2 vote” or maybe “The committee doesn’t like this by a 7-1 vote.”

Big Issues:

The Los Angeles Chargers have submitted a requested rule change to allow roughing the passer and defenseless player penalties to be reviewed. Due to the severity of the penalty, they feel allowing for replay review would ensure that the correct calls are getting made.

The New York Jets submitted the request to change the yardage on Pass Interference penalties. The debate is between 15 yards or treat it as a spot foul. Other conversations included half-the-distance as an option, depending on where it occurred on the field.

Catch / No-Catch. I think we all wanted this one on the list. A “catch” would now be simply defined by three criteria:

1. Control

2. Two feet down (or another body part)

3. A Football Move (take a 3rd step, reach for extra yardage or over goal line).


Removing the “going to the ground” portion of the rule is a huge improvement. Also, “control” would be changed from “slight movement” to just “movement.” It seems minor, but that word – Slight – seemed to give the referees a hard time. They would also go back to the old replay standard that in order to reverse the call on the field, indisputable video evidence must be shown. Currently, the “clear and obvious” language in the replay requirement is causing confusion.

McKay confirmed that yes, the Jesse James No-Catch would be a Catch under the new rule. Basically, the committee watched film on catches from last year that were ruled incomplete, decided which ones they thought passed the eye-test and then applied the new wording of the rule. In nearly all cases, they would have been catches. While this will greatly please fans, there is one thing to be wary of: Fumbles.

There was also a play last year by an Arizona Cardinals running back where he caught a pass, was hit and then fumbled the ball. The call was reversed using the rule and saying he didn’t complete the pass reception so it was Incomplete instead of a fumble. Under the new language, that play would have indeed been a completion and then a fumble. Just keep that in mind this year, fans, when your receiver “catches” a ball and then loses it…. hopefully the positive affects will far outweigh any of those instances.

Talk NFL with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8

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