The NFL’s new catch rule may create more problems than it solves and didn’t address the league’s bigger problem in officiating — director of officials Al Riveron overturning calls that should have stood in his first year on the job.
The new rule is a reaction to the going-to-the-ground rule overturning the Calvin Johnson catch in 2010, the Dez Bryant catch in 2014 and the Jesse James catch last year.
There’s no more going-to-the-ground stipulation in the new rule.
But even Riveron said the rule change might lead to more fumbles, which means more replay and more controversy.
Rich McKay, a member of the competition committee, said he will trade 10 fumbles for five memorable catches.
So we have to see what the effects of the new rule will be this fall before we judge it.
What we don’t know is whether Riveron will stop overturning too many calls on the field and spending too much time making a decision. He seemed to be changing how replay was designed on his own.
Only calls with clear evidence are supposed to be changed, not close calls that are inconclusive.
There was a positive sign when he didn’t overturn the Corey Clement and Zach Ertz catches in the Super Bowl.
On the Clement catch, the ball moved slightly in his hands, but Riveron said there wasn’t clear evidence to overturn it.
There wasn’t clear evidence to overturn several of the calls Riveron made last year, but that didn’t stop him from overturning them.
ESPN suggested Riveron was implementing the new rule during the Super Bowl before it passed, although it could be that he was finally using instant replay the way it was intended. Maybe he was reacting to all the complaints about the way he overturned calls.
To improve replay, they should stop using slow motion and give Riveron 30 seconds to make a call. If he needs more time than that or needs slow motion to make a decision, it’s inconclusive and the call on the field should stand.
He sometimes interrupts the flow of the game.
If you remember the Rob Lytle fumble in the 1977 Denver-Oakland AFC title game that the officials missed before instant replay, it was obvious in one look that he had fumbled.
Once they go to slow motion or even super slow motion and spend two minutes looking at it, the call shouldn’t be overturned.
This isn’t a problem just in the NFL. Millions of viewers who tuned into “60 Minutes” last Sunday to watch the Stormy Daniels interview got the end of regulation and the overtime of the Kansas victory over Duke instead.
In overtime, two players went for a ball that went out of bounds. On the court, it was ruled Duke’s ball. The officials then went to midcourt and spent way too much time looking at it and overturning it even though it was hard to tell from the video which player touched it last. As it turned out, Kansas missed the ensuing shot, so it didn’t affect the game. But plays that close shouldn’t be overturned.
Of course, they blew another play, calling a blocking foul on Duke that was clearly a Kansas charge. But that’s another issue that doesn’t involve replay.
Of the new rule, Riverson said, “We want to make those catches catches. That’s what the fans want.’’
They also don’t want the game interrupted by Riveron spending way too much time looking at replays and then overturning calls that should stand.
Let’s hope his Super Bowl calls reflect he is now understanding what replay was designed to do.