NFL VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino, gave a more thorough video explanation of why he and the officiating crew think Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant did not complete a catch against Green Bay in yesterday’s playoff game. You should watch Blandino’s video at this link if you haven’t seen it already. In short, Blandino is saying Bryant needed to make a move common to the game (AKA a “football move”) in order to not be subject to the “going to the ground” provision and that Bryant’s lunge was not sufficient to qualify as a “football move”.
Now that you’ve watched that, check out Dean Blandino’s NFL Total Access appearance from 2013 at this link and skip to about 2 minutes in and watch the rest (you’ll have to wait for a commercial at the beginning, but it’s worth it). Pay particular attention to the part where Blandino details the 3 components that must happen in sequence in order for there to be a catch. You will note that step 3 only requires a player to have control of the ball for an amount of time that it would take to make a move common to the game (AKA a “football move”).
At this point, you might be a little confused – and rightly so. In 2013, Blandino is saying that a catch happens when you accomplish 3 things – control of the ball, both feet down, and then control of the ball for a long enough period of time that you could make a “football move”. Now, in 2015, Blandino is saying that Bryant must actually perform a “football move”, not just have control of the ball for a long enough period of time that he could do one. The two explanations seem to be in direct conflict with each other.
So, what’s going on here? .. Back in 2010, when the “Calvin Johnson rule” first became a big deal, the officials came up with the concept of a “second act”. If, while falling to the ground during a catch, a player could complete a “second act” (ie a “football move”) then the player would not be subject to the “going to the ground” provision (“Item 1” in that part of the rulebook). This so-called “second act exemption” was not in the rulebook in 2010. In 2011, language was added to the rulebook to try and clarify things. When that was done, the language was changed slightly, such that a player did not have to perform a “second act”, he merely needed to have control of the ball for a long enough period of time that he could perform one. Read this article for a contemporaneous account of the problem and a discussion of this exact issue. Also, you can read the actual rule additions in the 2011 NFL Rule Book or you might prefer this easier side-by-side comparison of 2010 to 2011 changes.
Now, given that information, if you go back and look at Blandino’s 2013 video explanation of Calvin Johnson’s end zone catch, you can see that by the time Johnson puts his 2nd foot down, he’s only a tiny fraction of a second from touching the ground — not enough time to make any kind of “football move”. So, in that case it makes sense to call that one an incomplete catch (which they did). Likewise, Blandino’s explanation mentions the part about needing sufficient time to perform a “football move” – he does not say that a player actually has to perform it. That all seems to comport with the rulebook.
However, if you look at 2015’s Dez Bryant catch, Dez gets control of the ball, two feet down, and there is still a ton of time before he finally puts the ball on the ground at the one yard line. Blandino says that though Dez took 3 steps forward after controlling the ball, it is all one act of falling forward, because the apparent lunge at the end wasn’t enough to qualify as a “move common to the game” (ie a “football move”). I contend that that argument is incorrect & irrelevant. All that matters is if there was enough time that Dez could make a move — but he doesn’t have to make said move, as is clearly stated by “Note 1” in 8-1-3 in the NFL Rules (see “Note 1”, above, in the first inset screenshot from the rulebook).
I believe the NFL is (mistakenly) continuing to use the old “second act” exception to the “going to the ground” provision, as it was originally conceived, rather than the slightly modified time-based version that is actually in the rulebook. Please tweet/share/whatever this post towards/at/over-to Blandino and let’s get him to explain this discrepancy.
ps – for the record, I’m not arguing the Cowboys should have / would have won – who knows what would have happened, I’m simply arguing that the officials are not interpreting the rule correctly.