It looks like the NFL may consider re-redefining what constitutes a catch. I’m all for it, and just gave myself a reminder to nag the powers-that-be in late February.
A catch is defined by the 660 words in Article 3 of the NFL rule book. Eliminating the 72 words in Condition C would pretty much solve the problem of excessive subjectivity around a catch, which is entirely caused by ambiguity in what it means to “become a runner”:
A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
a. secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
b. touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands
c. maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps (see 3-2-7-Item 2).
Forget about all this subjective crap about becoming a runner and football moves. Ground yourself after securing the ball, that’s it. If you’re standing with two feet on the ground, then the instant the ball stops moving it’s a catch. If it’s popped loose by a defensive back half-a-second later then that’s a fumble. If you stumble and fall to the ground and the ball pops out then that’s also a fumble.
This instantaneous catch approach is a brighter-line criterion that would result in both more offense and more turnovers, and it would also obviate the need for the 252 (ostensibly) clarifying words in Items 1–4.
- Dropping the ball after going to the ground is now a fumble.
- Dropping the ball after going to the ground out-of-bounds is irrelevant. If the player touches in-bounds then it’s a catch; if not, it’s incomplete.
- If a catch happens in the end zone it’s an instantaneous touchdown. Similarly, if a catch happens in-bounds, then as soon as the ball crosses the plane it’s a touchdown (assuming they maintain possession; if not, it’s a forward fumble into the end zone).
- “If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control of it, it is a catch”. Period. No need for the added clause: “
…provided that the player continues to maintain control.”
Fans will be pissed about calls as long they care who wins, but good rules remove ambiguity rather than create it.