The NFL owners meetings are currently happening in Orlando, Florida. There, owners and league officials will consider and adopt several rule changes while discussing other major issues facing the league today (like the National Anthem protests).
This year the league is almost certainly going to adopt a rule change to the highly-controversial catch rules—and it will almost certainly fail to fix the problem. The league has shown time and time again that given the chance to fix an unpopular rule, they’ll only end up making it more complicated and infuriating.
But that’s neither here nor there, because a change has been long overdue, and at least they’re finally doing it, right?
Yeah, I guess if you want to give the league credit for finally “fixing” a rule that was exposed for being horrible a full nine years ago, go ahead. But this statement from NFL Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay tells you all you really need to know about how “progressive” the league is:
Rich McKay, NFL competition committee chair, says “I think Dez Bryant was the start of us realizing maybe something needs to change.” Credits officials for calling that and many others catches on the field. Says the language in replay was getting them.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 26, 2018
Yes, the NFL only started to realize that the catch rule may need a change when Dez Bryant failed to catch a pass in the NFC divisional round back in 2015—nearly six full years after the Calvin Johnson fiasco.
Now this is the part of the story where I could complain that the Lions get no respect and the Cowboys run the league. And while some of that may be true, that’s not the part of this that really bothers me.
This admission by McKay is further proof that this league is 100 percent reactionary rather than proactive. The league waited until the most popular NFL team was victimized by the rule on a national stage before EVEN CONSIDERING a rule change. By this time, just about everyone knew there was a problem, and Lions fans were absolute experts on the rulebook.
This is embarrassingly incompetent from the league. By January 2015—when the Dez catch (didn’t) happen—there had already been several examples of the catch rule failing, not just the Calvin Johnson play. Hell, Dez Bryant actually had previously been victimized by the rule back in 2013.
So had Calvin Johnson (again):
And Rueben Randle:
The point being that the NFL willingly turned their heads away from examples like these hoping that the problem would just go away. It was more important to them to pretend things were fine than to make an easily fixable rule more logical before it would end up costing a team at a pivotal moment.
But their incompetence doesn’t end there. After the Dez Bryant catch, the league actually tried to fix the rule. They eliminated “a football move” as part of the requirements to making a catch.
That’s essentially it. That’s all they did. And by removing that, they didn’t actually make the rule simpler, they made it more complicated.
What followed was one of the most infuriating seasons of NFL football to watch. SB Nation has a laundry list of frustratingly horrible calls relating to the catch rule from the 2015 season alone. (remember the strange Golden Tate touchdown/interception play against the Bears?)
And things remained that way FOR THREE SEASONS before the NFL finally got together and decided it was time to change things again.
The rule being proposed has already leaked to the media, and I’ll admit, it’s at least a little promising:
After much deliberation & input from coaches, players, @NFLLegends, & club executives, the @NFL Competition Committee will recommend the following language simplifying the catch rule at the Annual Meeting next week. pic.twitter.com/hJwH5YYBRK— Al Riveron (@alriveron) March 21, 2018
But considering the league’s long history at being completely inept at fixing problems with the game in a timely manner, I still have my doubts.