2017 might have been known as the year of the controversial catch. There was the Jesse James overturned catch vs. the Patriots in Week 15, and the Kelvin Benjamin oveturned catch vs. the Patriots later that season.
There were more examples last season of catches which were highly debated and discussed among media and fans in the days following.
The NFL changed the ‘Catch Rule’ this offseason, but NFL officials who gathered in Dallas Friday for their annual preseason meeting don’t see it as changing much with how they make calls on the field.
“Most of the calls that seemed to create the most controversy, we ruled them correctly and then they were overturned on replay,” Walt Coleman said via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “From our standpoint, we’re just going to continue to officiate the plays like we have.”
In hindsight, this is true. When Jesse James scored the would-be go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers in Week 15, it was ruled a touchdown on the field. It was then reviewed and overturned. And this wasn’t the only play in 2017 which happened like this, where it was replay which overturned the call, not the officials on the field.
“People just didn’t understand that you had to hold on to the ball going to the ground,” Coleman said. “When you catch the ball and you reach out, everybody thought that should be a catch. The way the rule was written, it wasn’t.”
So, just to recap, what does this new catch rule look like?
The new rule essentially eliminates the ground as a factor on catches while establishing three main criteria:
— Having control of the ball;
— Getting two feet down or another body part;
— Making a football move, such as taking a third step or extending the ball.
Ron Torbert, another veteran game official, doesn’t think the new rule is a knee jerk reaction to last season, or all about simplifying the former rule.
“We had a good idea of what it was and how to officiate it,” Torbert said. “We certainly understand that the way it was written, plays that people wanted to be a catch weren’t a catch under the older rule. We understand that.”
Every Steelers fans favorite person, Al Riveron, chimed in as well regarding the reason why the rule was changed, and why the league listened to the outcry over some of these overturned calls.
“I don’t think it was one thing,” senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron said. “I think we got to a point where fans, the office, coaches, players, wanted to see more exciting plays. How do we make this particular play a catch? How do we take the Dez Bryant play and make it a catch?”
Either way, the league’s changing of the catch rule will be one of many changes in the game heading into the 2018 regular season, and while the league is always trying to make things simpler — it can sometimes lend itself to the opposite.