PHOENIX -- A catch is a catch. It should be one of the easiest things to understand about the game of football, from a novice to the expert tape grinder who only pauses to tell you how much tape he's grinding. Everyone knows what a catch is ... or they did, until Calvin Johnson made a catch that wasn't a catch in 2010 and again when Dez Bryant made a catch that wasn't a catch in the NFC divisional playoffs this year.
The NFL competition committee declined to change the infamous Calvin Johnson rule. Instead, they plan to rewrite it, making the language clearer, easier to understand for officials, coaches, players and the folks at home.
I thought I understood what constituted a catch too, and I think understand what the competition committee is doing here, or rather isn't doing here. A receiver has to establish himself as a runner, formerly known as a "football move," after making the catch and getting his feet on the ground. In the event that a receiver makes a catch while going to the ground, he has to hold onto the ball.
That's the change, dumping "football move" for the player "establishing himself as a runner." Got it?
Naturally, the Dez Bryant play against the Packers was the first video example NFL vice president Dean Blandino showed to the media. Let's watch it again.
The ball gets into Bryant's hands and bobbles. His feet hit the ground, and he takes something that looks like a step forward toward the goal line. To the untrained eye, it looks like he made the catch, especially when you see it from the camera off the sideline closest to where the action happens.
In the eyes of the NFL, Bryant never clearly established himself as a runner (or made a football move if you're still married to the old vernacular) and he didn't maintain possession of the ball after hitting the ground. Therefore, it is still not a catch.
The new language sounds clearer. A "football move" is open to interpretation, but the competition committee believes that "clearly establishing himself as a runner" erases the gray area created by the rulebook's legalese. It sounds better at least. What it doesn't do is make it any more obvious why that is still not a catch in the eyes of the league.