“No one knows what a catch is,” said [Herm] Edwards, an ESPN analyst and former head coach of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. “I think the league has done everything in its power to try to get it right, but the problem is this: you have instant replay, and you have people looking at it, at the angle that it happens and all these things. You sit there and watch it unfold, and you don’t know. You really don’t know.I've complained about this before. The original sin is in the locution, process of the catch. Bleah. Glad to see the sports pundits catching on.
“To me, if it looks like a catch, or it looks like an interception, hey, that’s what it is. To me, it’s that simple.”
Edwards said the catch rule’s ambiguity hurts the game. The damage is easy to see. When a basic element of football becomes so muddled two people can watch the same play and perceive opposite outcomes, there’s a problem.
The catch rule, Edwards said, can negatively affect a game even when officials get it right. Pace of play has never been more important. In this no-huddle era, offenses are on the line of scrimmage as soon as the whistle blows to end the previous play.Not only that, I suspect that the officials have become less precise in making calls, as the proliferation of coaches' challenges, booth reviews, automatic review of scoring plays (which kills any chance of a trick play such as a two point conversion attempted out of the one-point-kick formation) and all the other intrusions that provide opportunities to sell more commercial time.
Replay reviews halt the rhythm, Edwards said. Pace of play is compromised.
“When I played,” Edwards said, “there wasn’t all those cameras, but there was never a debate. Either the guy caught it, or it was incomplete. You moved on. You kept playing.”
Edwards appreciates what instant replay brought to the game. Yes, it’s important to get a call right. But at what cost? Too often, Edwards said, a game is stopped when there’s no reason for a replay review.
“Instant replay has gotten so good with the ball moving this much,” [Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce] Arians said, almost touching his thumb and index finger. “Is it a catch? A guy runs into the wall in the back of the end zone, drops the ball. He’s about to break his neck. It’s not a catch anymore.Exactly.
“Two feet on the ground and possession of the ball should be a catch.”
On the surface, Arians’ solution has merit. The ground can’t cause a fumble. Why can it cause an incompletion? Maybe two feet plus possession should equal a catch.
Better than the NFL’s most basic play being its most complicated rule.
In football, as in any other endeavor, simplicity beats inordinate complexity.