NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is pushing to change the league’s notorious catch rule this offseason, a response to nearly a decade of complaints from coaches, players and fans about its counterintuitive nature.
“I’m not just somewhat concerned [about the rule],” Goodell said in an interview with FS1’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” “I am concerned.”
“I’m not just somewhat concerned, I am concerned… It’s particularly in the going to the ground that I think is creating a lot of the confusion.” – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the ‘Catch Rule’ pic.twitter.com/sn9CAqwKUv
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) January 29, 2018
Goodell revealed that he convened a summit earlier this month of five Hall of Fame wide receivers and several coaches to discuss the rule. The timing coincided roughly with the league’s most recent catch controversy, the Week 15 play in which Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James was ruled to have dropped a potential game-winning touchdown against the New England Patriots.
James was unable to maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground, a portion of the catch rule that appears to be of particular concern to Goodell. The intent of the rule is to give officials a clear and bright line for judging a catch, but Goodell made clear he now considers it problematic.
“You want there to be clarity from an officiating standpoint and a coaching and player standpoint,” Goodell said. “… I think here you might have clarity in a large element of it, but what happens is that it’s not the rule that people really want.”
Details of the league’s plan to tweak the rule are not yet clear. But Goodell indicated it will focus on instances like the James play — or those involving Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant in previous years — where receivers initially appear to have control of the ball while falling the ground. An operating theory, Goodell said, will be the idea that “fans want catches.”
The NFL’s competition committee will hold regular meetings over the next two months, and it’s possible that the new rule could be presented to owners in March.
“I hope we’ll be able to address this in a way that will bring more clarity and frankly more excitement to this,” Goodell said.