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Why the Compition Committee Made a Huge Mistake Regarding the ‘Calvin Johnson’ Rule

The NFL Competition Committee ruled today that there will be no significant change to the rule book to clarify a catch in the wake of the Calvin Johnson non-touchdown in week 1 against the Bears.  The Committee decided that the standards for determining a catch have remained the same for nearly 70 years.  Said Rich McKay (via

I think what will come out and what will be written in our report is that we’ll confirm the rule that’s really been there for more than 70 years, which basically says there are three elements to a catch: number one, you’ve got to secure control of the ball in your hands; number two, you’ve got to maintain that control when you have two feet down or any body part other than your hands; and number three, which will be the clarification that we’ll add to the book, we’ll say you must control the ball long enough after A and B, meaning you’ve caught it cleanly and you’ve got two feet down or a body part, and after those two elements then you’ve got to maintain control long enough, and we’re going to use the language we’ve had in the book for a long time, in which you would have the ability to perform any act common to the game.

That’s all well and good that you have language in the rule book and you want it applied uniformly to the field, but the problem is it is not being applied uniformly.  In case anybody hasn’t seen it, here is the Calvin Johnson “incompletion.”

Johnson catches the ball in the air, is contacted by a defender, gets two feet, a knee, his rear end and an elbow down.  All of which on their own are enough to establish himself in the field of play.  He loses the ball as he is turning over to get up and that was considered part of “the process” of the catch.  Here is Mike Pereira explaining it a little further after the fact.  We’ll look past that as it has been debated enough and nothing is going to change the letter of the rule apparently.

Let’s jump forward to one week later against the Eagles when DeSean Jackson “catches” a pass despite never coming close to having possession when the ball bounces off his body and onto the ground the moment he hits the turf.  This was ruled a catch on the field.  Mike Pereira joins the broadcast team and begins to justify the ruling on the field by talking about the defender contacting the receiver causing a second act.

This is indisputable evidence that there is not enough clarification to define a catch clearly on the field.  The fact that the Lions had to burn a challenge after that horrific interpretation of a catch was bad enough, but to have to do it a week after Calvin Johnson had a game winner wiped off the board was ludicrous.

How can the Competition Committee say the rule doesn’t need tweaking when there is so much grey area that DeSaen Jackson never having possession of any sort can be ruled a catch on the field.  Clearly there is a disconnect between the rule book, the refs and the application of the rule book.  When the former VP of Officiating can’t keep the rules straight a week apart, how can the refs on the field? has called for the owners to override the Competiion Committee  and require the rule be clarified, I could not agree any further and I hope these two examples help shed light on why.

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