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Blandino at officiating clinic: catch is the same rule, same outcome

As officials settled into their annual clinic in Dallas, senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino addressed the topic  we’re both sick of and engrossed with: the  process of the catch. The  goal for fans and officials alike  remains simply clarification and education, not an adjustment of the rule itself.

“The biggest thing is we all have to be on the same page. The rule is a good rule,” Blandino stated.  “The rule, with minor tweaks, has not changed since the 1940s.”  

Since this nearly dead horse was a point of emphasis for the 2015 season  and a major topic this offseason, Blandino simply wrapped up the issue with a clear and concise overview. WFAA sports anchor Mike Leslie captured the discussion on his Facebook page.

Despite changes in the wording, the catch  process involves three elements: control, two feet, and time. A player must control the ball, get two feet in bounds, and  have the ball long enough to become a runner (the time element). If the player is going to the ground, he must control the ball all the way through the contact with the ground.  There is nothing a player can do on his way to the ground that can demonstrate a catch — reach, stretch or lunge. In Blandino’s words, the player must “survive the ground.”

The clarification of the rule has been bolstered by examples: situations such as a receiver turning upfield, tucking the ball away, or having the ability to ward off a defender. These examples are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but are simply ways to identify a receiver becoming a runner.

Throughout this discussion, Blandino mentioned that  “bang-bang” plays obviate the need to officiate the many moving aspects of the play. A bang-bang play  refers to any contact or event  that happens so quickly that the time element cannot be determined. While one of its most common uses is in the context of pass interference, the bang-bang play also can pertain to a catch/no catch. Blandino called for consistency in this situation: when in doubt, the bang-bang play is ruled incomplete.

Replay officials  will also be included in this analysis to ensure that the time element is taken into consideration. Instructions to replay officials will be to run the play at full speed and not to go too slow as to distort the time element.

In Blandino’s  meetings with teams, all but one coaching staff had an “a-ha” moment of clarity on the issue, subtly referring to the Dallas staff being the outlier. In his remarks in the  Dallas Morning News, Blandino  reiterated that the rule was applied correctly in the reversal of the catch by Cowboys receiver  Dez Bryant in the 2014 playoffs, and that these clarifications don’t change the  outcome of  that play.

Image: Ben Murphy/@benmurphytv; video: Mike Leslie, WFAA

Matt Holmquist has joined Football Zebras as a contributing writer. This is the first of what we hope are many posts from him. Welcome, Matt.

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11 thoughts on “Blandino at officiating clinic: catch is the same rule, same outcome

  1. The “Download this video” link goes to a video downloader program, not to a video.

  2. The download link is not under our control. It is part of the Facebook video embed.

  3. Aha, so the problem is that my browser is not displaying the embedded video. Thanks!

  4. The video effectively clarifies the rule for me, which I appreciate. But I’m still vaguely dissatisfied, probably because fumbles are fun. Seeing the ball pop out and watching the recovery is exciting. In the examples they showed, I WANT some of them to be fumbles. My wants matter not, of course, but I wonder if I’m not the only one, and if this is part of why these calls are so controversial.

    Or maybe the catches with a fall to the ground have just conditioned us to think that control plus two feet should mean complete, time be damned. But then, if this has been the rule since the 40s, why is it still so controversial now? These plays aren’t THAT rare.

  5. The simple answer: replay.

    Replay in the ’40s involved seeing it if by chance on a newsreel before a showing of Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein about a week after the game.

    Replay now is high definition from multiple cameras with social media ready to tweet out a gif image to illustrate a catch.

    Whatever the rule is — football move, act common to the game, ability to become a runner — it has still been officiated roughly the same since the 1940s. It may not have been clear to the fans, but the rewording was to bring consistency to the players and the officials.

  6. I can see how replay may have created the problem, especially with the bang-bang element to the officiating of these calls. But we’ve had televised replay for decades. Not used as heavily or in high def, true, but we’ve been watching these plays in slow-mo for a long time. Yet we still get confused and outraged.

  7. The rule has NOT been officiated the same as it is now. The time, which is part of the elements of the catch, is between the control of the ball and the player’s establishment of legal position on the field. Sometimes this is a simultaneous event, such as a button hook, where the player has both feet planted firmly on the ground at the time he catches the ball. Sometimes it is a delayed event, such as when the player dives, or jumps into the air to catch the ball. It had ALWAYS BEEN the player’s legal positioning INBOUNDS, ie. the second foot down, that has been the legal determination of THE CATCH on a pass play. And this continues to be seen by the placement of the ball after a sideline catch is made. That placement of the ball is ALWAYS at the point at which the player last touched the ground INBOUNDS, regardless of where he landed out-of-bounds. This is proof that it is the legal positioning of the player INBOUNDS, with control of the ball, the terminates the play. AND THAT IS ALSO HOW THE DEFINITION OF “A CATCH” IS WORDED. This nonsense about additional time after that legal positioning is established NEEDS TO STOP. THAT TIME BELONGS TO THE RUNNER, NOT THE RECEIVER.

  8. “The clarification of the rule has been bolstered by examples: situations such as a receiver turning upfield, tucking the ball away, or having the ability to ward off a defender. These examples are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but are simply ways to identify a receiver becoming a runner.”

    This is NOT TRUE! Those examples are of a player who has ALREADY become a runner. They are NOT part of the CATCH! IT IS ILLEGAL TO ADVANCE THE BALL WITHOUT POSSESSION OF IT. If you are turning upfield, YOU ARE ADVANCING. Tucking the ball is not a requirement, EVER! THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT OF A PLAYER DEFENDING HIMSELF.

    A receiver is simply a player who is attempting…ATTEMPTING…to catch the ball. Once the ball is CAUGHT, he is then called THE RUNNER. It is the RUNNER’s objective to advance the ball, protect the ball, or give the ball up, if he wishes. THE ONE AND ONLY OBJECTIVE OF A receiver IS TO CATCH THE BALL. After he completes this objective, he is no longer a receiver, he is a runner. And it is stated in the rule book that “After the pass is caught, a Running Play begins.”…”A catch is made when a player inbounds secures possession of a pass, kick, or fumble that is in flight”….”A player who makes a catch may advance the ball.” Each of these statements indicates that the only objective of a receiver is to secure possession of the ball. And on a pass play, that CATCH changes the player to the RUNNER, who can THEN, AND ONLY THEN, advance the ball.

  9. To say that the receiver has to show that he is a runner is to say that he has ALREADY CAUGHT THE BALL. That means he is ALREADY the Runner, and is no longer the receiver. The third element (C) of the Completed or Intercepted Pass rule is being applied to a player WHO IS ALREADY CONSIDERED THE RUNNER, because that is the only way he can show that he IS a runner. THAT MEANS HE HAS ALREADY CAUGHT THE BALL, which leads us back to the second foot, or establishment of legal position inbounds being the COMPLETION OF THE PASS.

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